Industry News

McDonald’s, Nickelodeon Accused of Kids Commercial Exploit

Several advocacy groups accused McDonald’s, General Mills and other companies of violating kids’ privacy by viral marketing, and asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the issue, according to media reports.

The Center for Media Justice, the Center for Digital Democracy, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and 14 other consumer advocates filed a complaint against McDonald’s, Viacom’s children channel Nickelodeon, Doctor’s Associates, Turner Broadcasting System, and General Mills under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The companies allegedly ask kids to divulge personal and friends’ information without parental consent, and use the data for marketing. McDonald’s website happymeal.com, for instance, has a feature which allows children of any age to make music videos with their pictures on a cartoon character.

“The site then encourages the child to ‘share’ the video with up to five of her friends by entering in their names and email addresses,” the advocacy coalition said in the complaint. “Each friend receives an email with the subject line, ‘You’ve been tagged for fun by a friend! Check it out! … In this way, McDonald’s gets an ever-increasing number of children to visit the branded Happy Meal website.”

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was implemented in the U.S. in 2000, giving parents the right to say what information websites can collect about children under 13 years old. They can only give personal information with their parents’ consent.

The FTC already proposed an update of the children’s privacy act which would ensure that parents give their permission before children share information with third parties.

About the author

Bianca STANESCU

Bianca Stanescu, the fiercest warrior princess in the Bitdefender news palace, is a down-to-earth journalist, who's always on to a cybertrendy story. She's the industry news guru, who'll always keep a close eye on the AV movers and shakers and report their deeds from a fresh new perspective. Proud mother of one, she covers parental control topics, with a view to valiantly cutting a safe path for children through the Internet thicket. She likes to let words and facts speak for themselves.

1 Comment

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  • I find it very disturbing how the big fast-food chains try to brainwash kids so early on. The US rocks obesity rankings, being probably the fattest country in the world, yet those corporations have no problem making things even worse by getting kids hooked on their food. What’s wrong with the food education in America? How come it’s the corporations like McDonald’s, Coca Cola and the whole HFCS industry teaching kids horrible eating habits, producing more and more obese people? The medical costs of treating malnourished, overfed Americans boasts some $150 billion per year :(

    Banning corporations from evil practices can only get you so far, certainly not a solution to the obesity problem. Corporations have plenty of money to pay for convincing people to buy more junk food, it’s just demand stimulation. The ultimate fight is about getting proper food education in schools, simply teaching kids how to tell good food from processed junk, and why it’s important to eat properly. That of course will be opposed by the junk food industry lobbyists, but then again this is the right thing to do if you want to solve the obesity problem. You are what you eat, right?