Privacy dispute emerges involving personal data, kids and marketing

Privacy dispute emerges involving personal data, kids and marketing

Summary: Nearly two dozen children advocacy groups are reportedly teaming up this week to file complaints over personal data and marketing with the FTC against large corporations such as McDonald's and Nickelodeon.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Privacy, Big Data
13

The debate over personal data on the Internet and how it is used is always heated, but it becomes even more so when it involves children.

Nearly two dozen children advocacy groups are reportedly teaming up this week to file at least five separate complaints with the Federal Trade Commission against some very large global corporations that heavily depend upon business from kids and their parents, such as McDonald's and General Mills.

Specifically, the websites in question in the complaints are HappyMeal.com, Nick.com, ReesesPuffs.com, SubwayKids.com, TrixWorld.com, and CartoonNetwork.com.

Groups such as the Center for Digital Democracy and the Center for Science in the Public Interest argue that these businesses are acting in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires parental consent before websites can ask for any personal information about children under the age of 13.

The problem here, according to the advocate groups, is that the websites in question are targeting children with brand-related online games that ask for friends' email addresses without any kind of requirement for parental consent. Thus, the kids participating in the brand-related games and other activities are offering up personal data about other kids without their consent (or their parents' consent) too.

Attorney Laura Moy, representing the Center for Digital Democracy, told The New York Times that these businesses are "doing an end run around the law" that is supposed to protect children's privacy.

Under the law, they can’t just collect e-mail addresses from kids and send them marketing material directly. So they are embedding messages saying, ‘Play this game and share it with your friends,’ in order to target the friends.

However, most of these businesses targeted in the complaints are defending their actions.

General Mills represenative Tom Forsythe told The San Francisco Chronicle that "send-to-a-friend e-mails" are protected under the Act so long as the full name and email address of the sender is never collected and the recipient's e-mail address is "purged immediately following the sending of the message."

Topics: Privacy, Big Data

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

13 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Until White Collar Crime results in prison

    The Big Corps will continue to flout the law.
    Bozzer
  • RE :- Until White Collar Crime results in prison

    And your point is?

    What about Facebook? I wonder how many kids have Facebook accounts without their parents consent?

    If the truth be known everyone is flouting the law in some way or another. Try telling a 12 or 13 year old not to do something, they will then set out to do it purposely.
    zoltronix
    • HERE IS A DUMB IDEA!!!!

      Have the parents start a Facebook account - The "kids" will be very careful what they say and do if they know their parents can see what they are doing and saying!!! I Did it when two grandchildren were living in my house - and my older Grand kids have done it for the benefit of their kids... (got 5 kids, 9 grand kids & 7-1-2 Great Grand kids) It does work!!!
      puppadave
      • I second the dumb idea

        Exactly. All the children that I know (family like: children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews) have Facebook accounts. All of them must [Friend] parents and other adults that also have accounts. Without that requirement, the children don't get accounts. Parents should also view the accounts from the child's log-on to verify. One of them just lost his/her account for 6 months due to something incredibly irresponsible that was posted.
        LWRiker
  • This has nothing to do with privacy...

    these are just more of the kooks trying to shut down fast food restaurants.
    Tony Burzio
    • Cartoon Network?

      This has to do with the ACT and not what is served. This is based on the websites. I wonder if search engines are next?
      hforman@...
  • It has everything to do with privacy...

    Thing is...companies use proceeding to defend their stance on anything, OK so you dont care if McDonald's does it...but what about Marlboro? what I am saying is, if one company wins the Law suit, it opens the door for other companies to follow suit.
    William Covington
    • Not True

      Not true. Marlboro can't advertise to children through cartoon ads and can't advertise on TV. But McDonald's can. They already have a double standard on this and they don't care who knows it. Just like P2P companies are responsible for the criminal activity its users post, but gun manufacturers are not. So it doesn't matter if McDonald's wins, they still aren't going to allow cigarette and liquor companies advertise to kids or take their information. Personally its all wrong, if we are supposed to be free in a free country and the first amendment, then its all fair game. Privacy is one issue, but sending ads is free speech and children are no exception. Kids are just pimped out in this same way anytime some group wants to shut something down that free people have a right to obtain.
      princern
  • I find it interesting that these groups involved in this

    seem NOT to be interested in going the parents of the kids involved for letting them accessing the Internet without any supervision at all, or for letting their kids send the referral emails. After all, knowing how dangerous the Internet is, means that parents who let their under 13 kids access it unsupervised must be neglecting their children, and that's much more of a concern than what the companies are doing.
    Deadly Ernest
  • Personnal Advocates

    That's the reason this country is the way it is. To many small groups trying to run this country. If you want to hit them where it hurts, stop feeding your children that poison they call food. Take a little time and cook your kids some good dinners instead of buying that fast food crap. If you don't buy it, then they won't have any of your information to pass around.
    forwhomthebellstoll
  • Is all a matter of perspective, apparently....

    Intrusive non-profit government bad, intrusive for-profit corporation good.

    Is that why Corporate America wants control of our government? 'Cuz the NSA has more efficient toyz than they do?
    ibsteve2u
  • Email Privacy

    I've been ticked off with every lazy bone who ever sent email to everyone in their list and every gets everyone else's real name and email address. That feature makes abusers of lazy donkeys, too sorry to put a little effort into protecting their friends, or so-called friends. Say anything about it and what comes back are slams for being told they're careless or they want us to think they're too stupid or lack the time to protect everyone's privacy. Email designers have screwed everyone with that feature. And... if any emailers have minors in their address, what's it to them? They have enough time to read spam but lack time to clean up their act.
    Certo1
    • Amen Brother!

      I would also add to the list:
      People that load their ENTIRE address book on any social network! What the hell are they thinking!! (Usually called "Find your friends"
      People that refer an article using the website tool.
      People listing you as a relative on FB or tagging your name in photos.
      People that are just stupid and not thinking about the consequences of their actions!
      Gr8Music