September 07, 2009

They've got mail.

Your kids' mail, that is. And their chats. And just about anything else that your kids do online. From this AP story.

Software sold under the Sentry and FamilySafe brands can read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send back data on what kids are saying about such things as movies, music or video games. The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids.

"This scares me more than anything I have seen using monitoring technology," said Parry Aftab, a child-safety advocate. "You don't put children's personal information at risk."

The company that sells the software insists it is not putting kids' information at risk, since the program does not record children's names or addresses. But the software knows how old they are because parents customize its features to be more or less permissive, depending on age. [...]

The software brands in question are developed by EchoMetrix Inc., a company based in Syosset, N.Y.

In June, EchoMetrix unveiled a separate data-mining service called Pulse that taps into the data gathered by Sentry software to give businesses a glimpse of youth chatter online. While other services read publicly available teen chatter, Pulse also can read private chats. It gathers information from instant messages, blogs, social networking sites, forums and chat rooms.

EchoMetrix CEO Jeff Greene said the company complies with U.S. privacy laws and does not collect any identifiable information.

Let me get this right: EchoMetrix sells parents a monitoring program, collects data about their child's online activities, and then sells that data to advertisers and others. Or, to put it another way, the company makes parents pay for the privilege of having their kids' data turned into a product that can then be resold.

Great work if you can get it, eh?

Posted by Magpie at September 7, 2009 11:51 AM | Internet | Technorati links |

Dang, how did I not think of that idea? lol Maybe it is because I am slightly more'd think some consumer watchdog organization would be raising a fuss about this...

Posted by: Wine of Month Club at September 9, 2009 09:25 AM

I can't believe what I'm reading. How can such actions comply with U.S. privacy laws? There really is no such thing as privacy on the web any longer..

Posted by: Shed at September 13, 2009 08:10 PM

>>Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services

I am glad I do not use any of these chat services. They have been more or less "insecure", and thanks to privacy-thieves like EchoMetrix, situation has got even murkier!

As for marketers, I believe there are better and more ethical ways to conduct market research; I wodner why do they always have to use "sneaky" tactics! :P

Posted by: Patricia Ryans at September 16, 2009 09:50 PM