BBB National Programs Archive

CARU Recommends Movie Star Planet Website Take Steps to Better Protect Children’s Privacy

Company Agrees to Do So

New York, NY – July 11,  2012 – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit has recommended that Movie Star Planet APS modify the website to better protect the privacy of child visitors.

CARU is an investigative arm of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation 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 guidelines on Online Privacy Protection, as well as with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

The website, which came to the attention of CARU through CARU’s routine monitoring practices, is a virtual world directed to tweens and teens that featured chat, forums, clubs and internal mail.  Members on the site could create an avatar of a “movie star” and modify the avatar’s appearance by the addition of facial features, clothing and accessories.  In addition, the site offered VIP memberships, which allowed members to purchase virtual goods.

Upon its initial investigation, CARU determined that site’s age-screening mechanism was not in compliance with CARU’s guidelines. The messaging used by the operator in its age-screening process acted as a tip-off to children enabling them to come back another time and enter a different age.

Further, CARU determined that the Website’s mechanism for verifiable parental consent in a chat area was not adequate because the opt-out method did not require a parent to affirmatively consent to the disclosure of their children’s personally identifiable information (PII).

CARU also concluded that a message stating that child visitors must get adult permission before signing up for a VIP Membership was not an adequate method for obtaining parental consent for the collection of PII that was to be used for internal purposes by the website.

Finally, CARU determined that the Website’s privacy policy lacked the requisite contact information and therefore did not comply with the COPPA provisions regarding notice.

MovieStarPlanet, in its operator’s statement, said it “accepts CARU’s decision in its entirety and has incorporated changes to its website designed to implement CARU’s recommendations.”