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Hershey, Mrs. Fields Settle FTC Web Privacy Charges

WASHINGTON - Hershey Foods Corp. and Mrs. Fields Original Cookies Inc. have agreed to pay $185,000 to settle charges that they collected personal information from children without their parents' permission, Reuters reports.

The Federal Trade Commission charged that both companies violated an online privacy law because they did not ensure that they had parental permission before collecting the names, e-mail addresses, ages and other personal information of children who visited their Web sites.

Mrs. Fields agreed to pay $100,000 and Hershey's Foods agreed to pay $85,000 to settle the charges. Neither company admitted guilt as part of the settlement.

"These settlements offer food for thought for anyone who operates a Web site that caters to kids," said Howard Beales, head of the FTC's consumer-protection division.

Both companies also agreed to delete the customer lists they set up through their Web sites and allow the FTC to monitor their activities in the future.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, passed in 1998, sets penalties of $11,000 per violation.
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