BBB National Programs Archive

CARU Recommends Clearwater Aquarium Modify Website to Better Protect Children’s Privacy

Aquarium Agrees to Do So

New York, NY – April 27,  2012 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit has recommended that Clearwater Aquarium, operator of the website, modify the website to better protect the privacy of child visitors to the site. The aquarium has agreed to do so.

CARU is an investigative arm of the advertising industry’s self-regulatory system and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

CARU monitors websites for compliance with CARU’s Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising, including CARU guidelines on Online Privacy Protection, as well as with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The website came to the attention of CARU through CARU’s routine monitoring. The website’s main focus is the promotion of Winter, a dolphin who lives at the aquarium.  Winter is the subject of a recent book and his story has recently been featured in the family film, “A Dolphin’s Tale.”

The site provides information about Winter and allows visitors to learn about the aquarium and its programs.  The Website has a link to a “Kidzone” area that includes games, coloring pages and student resources.

A visitor to the Kidzone area can sign up for an e-newsletter and “stay up to date with Winter.”  Visitors are asked to enter their first and last names, email and street addresses and daytime and cell phone numbers.

CARU was concerned that the site collected personally identifiable information from children under the age of thirteen without first obtaining prior parental consent as required by COPPA and CARU’s guidelines. CARU was further concerned that the website’s privacy policy did not reflect its privacy practices.

The aquarium did not respond to CARU’s initial inquiry and the site at issue was referred to the Federal Trade Commission. The operator later agreed to work with CARU to bring its Website into compliance with the Guidelines and COPPA.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium, in its operator’s statement, said it “has agreed to modify its website and will continue to ensure that the website is in compliance with relevant guidelines and legal requirements.