Cookies not good for kids, lawsuit says

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A Jeannette child has filed a lawsuit, seeking class action status, accusing Viacom Inc. and Google Inc. of improperly using tiny computer programs called cookies to track the online activity of children.

Identified only as K.T., the child is under 13 years old and has registered to use the websites nick.com and nickjr.com, owned by Viacom and associated with the Nickelodeon television franchise, the complaint filed in U.S. District Court said. By registering with the websites, K.T. accepted the placement on the family's home computer of cookies -- scripts that communicate information on Internet use to Viacom and Google, it said.

The companies, the lawsuit said, "conspired to use and profit from said information for targeted marketing directed at" K.T. and other children.

"Only Santa should spy on little boys and girls," said attorney Douglas A. Campbell, who filed the lawsuit on K.T.'s behalf. He called the tracking of children's online activity "pernicious."

Mr. Campbell said similar lawsuits have been filed in other states. "This is coming to a head."

Officials for Viacom and Google could not be immediately reached.

The lawsuit said that because the marketing is aimed at children under 13, it violates provisions of anti-wiretapping laws and the Video Privacy Protection Act, and intrudes upon children's seclusion while unjustly enriching the companies.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the companies have violated the law, plus unspecified damages.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord


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