Think your kid is safe browsing websites of apparently harmless companies? Think twice. McDonald’s along with Cartoon Network, Viacom and two other big companies are being accused of violating children’s online privacy.
As terrible as it sounds, it seems that some people forget all about good will when it comes to making more money. The same seems to have happened to McDonald’s, General Mills, Turner Broadcasting, Viacom, and Doctor’s Associates’. Apparently these firms are starting to use the vulnerability of our young ones for commercial purposes. Consumer advocacy groups are pressing the Federal Trade Commission to start investigations regarding the violation of children’s privacy in online campaigns.
According to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), it’s absolutely forbidden to require personal information of the under 13 year old children without a parent’s permission. Well that’s not what happened with McDonald’s in their online application “star in a music video”.
This game found on the company’s website required children to share photos or videos of themselves staring in their own music videos. Apparently nothing’s wrong with this except the fact that it could have been done without a grown up’s consent. What’s more, they also asked for other kid’s contacts such as e-mail addresses.
Many companies use this “refer-a-friend marketing” to make their campaigns go viral on the internet but there’s another thing when you apply this to a child. “It’s one thing to ask this of a 27-year-old, but for an 8-year-old? These companies have no self-respect. They need a class in media ethics 101”, said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
“Online privacy is a major concern around the world, and children need special safeguards because they usually can’t make the best decision over who to give these details to” added Jeff Chester, who is also in charge of the campaign against exploitation of children’s right in the digital world.
In response to these accusations, McDonald’s said simply that they are doing their best to respect regulations. According to the fast food chain’s spokeswoman Danya Proud “McDonald’s makes every effort to be in compliance with all government regulations”.
In a nutshell, concerned parents have only one solution: install various blocks and filters to limit your children’s exposure to potential threats.