(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
kids, marketing, monitoring, privacy

Kiddie Monitoring Software Spying On IM Chats, Selling Info To Marketers

from the yeah,-that'll-go-over-well dept

There are a bunch of different "child filtering/monitoring" software on the market these days, and many parents use it to help them keep track of what their kids do online. I have no problem with this -- so long as such filters aren't mandated by the government. But it appears that just selling the tools isn't enough for some companies. JJ sends in the news that one of the top providers in the space doesn't just monitor what kids do for parents, but collects all the data -- including the text of chat room discussions -- and resells it to marketers. You have to imagine that this isn't exactly what the FTC (or parents) expects of such tools.

The company defends the practice, claiming that the data is anonymized and no identifiable data is included -- but we've heard that before. Every single time someone insists their data is anonymized, news breaks showing that it is not. I don't think there's anything wrong, necessarily, with doing targeted marketing programs, but using unsuspecting parents and getting them to install filters and monitoring software, without realizing the data will be handed over to marketing firms, seems pretty sleazy.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Phatnobody, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:11am


    What's the betting there is a block of print with an opt-out box explaining this somewhere during installation.

    Sleazy practice indeed but damn, people need to learn to read the agreements when they install software.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Kevin Stapp (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:12am

    Not to mention most filtering and monitoring programs are fairly easily circumvented by a tech savvy child. The only effective content filter I found is OpenDNS. You can create broad classes of excluded content, specify sites to block or allow, and best of all it is free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    No Imagination (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:14am

    How can they gaurentee anonymity?

    If the software (this or any) collects chatroom/IM data, how can they possible say its anonymous? I mean, sure there may be no identifiable information through the transmission, but people use names, dates, and locations all the time that may be used to identify someone.

    Not to mention, IM and Chatrooms used to be all about the txt, but now its just as much about video's and pictures. While one may say its up to you not to put such information on the web, the very audience that the software is targeting (young kids/their parents) indicates users who do not yet know any better.

    Finally - Why do companies WANT this information about young kids to target advertisements towards them!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Ilfar, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:26am

    Useless stuff anyway

    Local library has a heuristic analysis package that looks at what you browse through and blocks as it sees porn... So I managed to get the TV Tropes website banned by hitting Scenery Porn trope page... Boy did that take some explaining :P

    I always just setup the computers so anyone walking past could see what was on the screen, and made it very clear that the instant anyone started minimising or closing windows when I walked past, they were off it for a week. My habit of sneaking up behind people to scare them, after watching their screen for a bit, probably explains why I only had one of them kicked off once. :P (turns out when I checked the screencap app I had running that she was just playing with photoshop to make silly photos of her mother and I)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    giafly, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:32am

    Lock them up and throw away the key

    This is Internet equivalent of lurkers hiding near the school playground with a parabolic microphone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Glurbie, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:37am

    Parental permission without parental agreement?

    The companies claim they can get around federal privacy laws restricting data collection on kids under 13 because they have parental permission, but the article also says the data collection is not mentioned in the download agreement.

    How can they claim they have the parents permission to collect data if the parents haven't agreed to it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Lohocla, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:02am

    "anonymous" targeted marketing

    isnt that phrase an oxymoron?

    Anyway, the issue here is trust, they already lost that trust when they neglected to inform the users of their actions.

    That being said, taking the word of some "spokesman" who says, Trust Us, There Is Nothing to Fear Here is foolish. Especially when said "spokesman" probably has nothing to do with the collection, distribution, and "cleansing" of the data. So in essence he's just repeating what he's been told.

    No Sir, Dont like it.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    NullOp, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:20am


    The data is anonomized. HA! No, they wouldn't do anything wrong with it. Any chance a company/government has to collect data they are going to do it. "Something wrong" will always be done with it either intentionally or covertly. Its not an "if it will happen" situation, its a sure thing!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:31am

    Re: Opt-Out?

    So you read every single word in the EULA every time you install software? I highly doubt it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 5:01am

    Re: Re: Opt-Out?

    I just tried to read Apples EULA while setting up an iTunes account so my son can buy music there. The thing was so long that I had to look at it just to try and figure out how it could possibly be so long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 5:13am


    While OpenDNS is a good thing (I use it), it's just domain name resolution. It's not a gateway or even a proxy. A tech savvy child (or anyone with half a brain) can get around it without much effort. The best way is for parents to be actively involved in their children's lives (but what are the odds of that).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    senshikaze (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 6:18am

    Evil is as evil does

    After the Ars Technica article from yesterday, I don't really trust anything that is claimed to be "anonymous." Greedy corporations have no morals, so this kind of thing should surprise no one. My question is, how does this help the parents in anyway? This kind of thing is solely for the money, nothing else.
    Of course, this is slightly the parents fault. Teaching your children and being a part of their lives (to echo Chronno from above) is worth a lot more than the "protection" these "services" provide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    fishbane, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:22am

    Whiteshoes: Start your wordprocessors

    I suspect there's at least a few 2nd year associates doing Madison County feasibilities this week...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    TheStupidOne, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    Re: Re:

    best internet filter ever: 100% disable (maybe by removing the modem) anytime you aren't in the same room as your kid.

    Either that or let them go wild. b00bs will not turn your son into the devil, and if you treat your children with respect and treat them like you actually care and talk to them they won't go meet some 47 yr old pedophile at McDonalds

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Glenn, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 5:42pm


    That's funny. These parents are anything but unsuspecting; they, in fact, suspect the worst. I think they're getting just what they deserve.

    Parents used to raise their children so they could live in the world... and survive. This involved teaching them about the world, not trying to hide everything that's "suspect" from them. Why do you think every generation gets more screwed up than the one before it? (Parents doing a lousy job of parenting... but a really good job of avoiding real parenting.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    karla, Sep 10th, 2009 @ 12:00pm


    whats up bitches

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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