Critics Say Kids' Websites Gather Data Illegally

McDonald's, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network among those named
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2012 4:47 PM CDT
Major companies are being accused of using illegal tactics to collect data from children.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Are McDonald's, Nickelodeon, Subway, and other major companies illegally collecting data from children online? A group of 20 public interest groups believes so, and it has filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission to halt the behavior, reports the New York Times. The complaints assert that six popular websites, run by the companies and tailored to kids, break the Children's Online Privacy Act by encouraging the kids to give up the email addresses of their friends.

The law requires that websites get parental consent before gathering info about children under age 13. But by using the common "tell a friend" or "refer a friend" practice, the companies appear to be bypassing this rule. “It really shows that companies are doing an end run around a law put in place to protect children’s privacy,” says a member of a nonprofit helping file the complaints. The sites named: HappyMeal.com, Nick.com, ReesesPuffs.com, SubwayKids.com, TrixWorld.com, and CartoonNetwork.com. (Read more Federal Trade Commission stories.)

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