Posted in: Compliance, Special Report
Tapping into the youth market can be uber lucrative for companies with products and services designed for the young — or maybe just the young at heart. But firms that use online gaming and social networking to attract the attention of kids, could get caught in the crosshairs of the FTC, which is being asked by a number of consumer groups to investigate the strategies and methods used by a number of companies to target youth.
A coalition of children’s, health, privacy and consumer advocacy
organizations, led by the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and including
Consumer Federation of America, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, filed five separate complaints recently with the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC), calling for that agency to investigate and possibly take action
against several children’s websites for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy
Protection Act (COPPA).
The websites the group is unhappy with include those belonging to McDonald’s
HappyMeal.com, General Mills’ ReesesPuffs.com and TrixWorld.com, Doctor’s
Associates’ SubwayKids.com, Viacom’s Nick.com, and Turner Broadcasting’s
The groups also called on the commission to update its
children’s privacy rules to guard youngster from others forms of data collection,
like the use of photos and “cookies.
All this comes amid increasing awareness by the public of the methods and tactics companies are no using online to track all consumers activities and fashion marketing programs that are tailored to the individual user.
Kids and the Internet have long been a preoccupation of parents, teachers, religious leaders and child advocates. Reasonably savvy adults are likely aware that requests for info from sites will be used to refine and define marketing activities. Kids, these advocates believe, have no idea what they’re giving up to the folks who run these sites.
They think they’re just playing a game. They don’t see the harm in providing a friend’s name and address so the friend can play along. The viral nature of the campaign — using kids to link the company to their friends — isn’t new or particularly novel. Creating an attractive and compelling community capitalizes on the social aspects of the activity.
But in the process of creating this virtual community, kids are giving up personal information on themselves and their friends without parental oversight or permission.
To check out an example of what companies are doing to grab the attention of young consumers, check out this McDonalds game.
This complaint could result in stricter rule and penalties for companies that cross the line when selling to kids. We’ll keep you posted.
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