BBB National Programs Archive

 

CARU Recommends Donnerwood Media Modify Website To Better Protect Children’s Privacy; Company Agrees To Do So

New York, NY – May 28, 2009 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CARU) has recommended that Donnerwood Media implement new measures to better protect the privacy of children who visit the company’s Website at www.meez.com. The company has agreed to do so.

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

The site came to the attention of CARU through an anonymous complaint.

The Website offers visitors an interactive experience where users can personalize three-dimensional avatars, play online animated games, participate in forums, create profiles and send messages to friends. The Website is colorful, vibrant, contains animated characters, and advertisements for video games.

Upon initial inquiry, CARU found that to create a free account, users were required to enter a username, password, e-mail, date of birth, and country. When a registrant entered a birthday corresponding with an age that is under 13 they received a message that stated: “Sorry, Meez isn’t for kids under 13.  Please come visit us on your thirteenth birthday.”

CARU determined that this was tip-off language that alerted visitors to the age-screening mechanism and might encourage children to possibly misrepresent their ages in order to be able to successfully register. The Website was also missing a tracking mechanism to prevent children who were blocked by the age-screen from being able to change their age to one over 13 and successfully register. 

Following CARU’s inquiry letter, the operator agreed to develop and implement new privacy practices to ensure compliance with the guidelines. The operator removed the leading language regarding the age threshold from the registration page and added a tracking mechanism to ensure children would not be able to go back and change their ages in order to successfully register.

CARU noted in its decision that it is pleased the operator integrated new privacy measures to bring its Website into compliance with the guidelines through neutral age-screening.

In its operator’s statement, Donnerwood Media said it “accepts CARU’s decision in its entirety and has modified its Website to comply with CARU’s Guidelines.”