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    Associated Press: Web-monitoring tool gathers data on kid chats

    Here’s a story from a few weeks ago that I missed. The Associated Press reports that EchoMetrix Inc.’s Sentry and FamilySafe software, sold to allow parents to monitor kids’ online activities, can “read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send that data back to the company. The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids.”

    The company says parents can opt-out of this tracking and selling of their children’s personal data, but the opt-out “can be found only by visiting the company’s Web site. It was not in the agreement contained in the program itself as downloaded Thursday by The Associated Press.”

    According to the agreement, the software passes along data to “trusted partners.” Confidentiality agreements prohibit those clients from sharing the information with others.

    In recognition of federal privacy laws that restrict the collection of data on kids under 13, the agreement states that the company has “a parent’s permission to share the information if the user is a child under age 13.”

    There are numerous examples of surveillance of children: With camera systems (in Washington, DC; the state of Washington; the United Kingdom; and, Sweden, among others) and with RFID tags (in California and Rhode Island, for example). There’s a watch that can tell you where your kid is. Location-tracking devices are nothing new; they are proliferating among mobile phones and in other areas of life.

    Situations like that of the parental-control software Sentry and FamilySafe show the need for strong legislation and regulation of targeted behavioral marketing. Earlier this month, a coalition of 10 consumer and privacy advocacy organizations, including Privacy Lives, called on Congress to enact legislation to protect consumer privacy in response to threats from the growing practices of online behavioral tracking and targeting. “Developments in the digital age urgently require the application of Fair Information Practices to new business practices,” the groups said. “Today, electronic information from consumers is collected, compiled, and sold; all done without reasonable safeguards.”

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