While the internet seems like an untamed wilderness much of the time, there are actually a surprising number of measures in place to help your wee ones navigate it unharmed. Like, say, systems to keep big bad corporate wolves from gobbling up the personal information of kids under 13.
McDonald's, Nickelodeon, General Mills, Subway and Cartoon Network have been accused of outright ignoring these systems on their kid-friendly online honeypots.
As the New York Times reports, nearly 20 children advocacy groups have banded together to accuse the aforementioned toddler tempters of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the US. Specifically, the sites in question encourage minors to share the email addresses of their friends without parental consent. What's worse is that it's so clearly an intentional skirting of the law. According to one of the lawyers leading the charge:
"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."
The technical legal term for this sort of thing is "icky," so let's hope this puts an end to it. There are enough predators online as it is without having to worry about HappyMeal.com's intentions.