BBB National Programs Archive


New York, NY – Feb. 15, 2012  – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CARU) has referred the Clearwater Aquarium, operator of the website, to the Federal Trade Commission, after the company failed to provide a response to a CARU inquiry.

CARU, the children’s advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, 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.

The Website’s privacy policy contains a children’s section that states:

“We at CMA are concerned about protecting children’s privacy and follow these guidelines:

CMA does not collect online contact information from or about children (under age 18) without prior parental consent or parental notification, which will include an opportunity for the parent to prevent use of the information and participation in the activity. Without prior parental consent, online information will only be used to respond directly to the child’s request and will not be used for any other purpose. Children’s contact information will not be added to any database or mailing list without prior parental consent.”

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.

Given the advertiser’s failure to provide a substantive written response, CARU has referred the website to the FTC for further review.


CARU’s inquiry was conducted under NAD/CARU/NARB Procedures for the Voluntary Self-Regulation of National Advertising.  Details of the initial inquiry, CARU’s decision, and the advertiser’s response will be included in the next NAD/CARU Case Report.

About Advertising Industry Self-Regulation: The National Advertising Review Council (NARC) was formed in 1971. NARC establishes the policies and procedures for the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the CBBB’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) and the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program.)

The NARC Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the American Advertising Federation, Inc. (AAF), American Association of Advertising Agencies, Inc., (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers, Inc. (ANA), Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. (CBBB), Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).  Its purpose is to foster truth and accuracy in national advertising through voluntary self-regulation.

NAD, CARU and ERSP are the investigative arms of the advertising industry’s voluntary self-regulation program. Their casework results from competitive challenges from other advertisers, and also from self-monitoring traditional and new media. NARB, the appeals body, is a peer group from which ad-hoc panels are selected to adjudicate NAD/CARU cases that are not resolved at the NAD/CARU level. This unique, self-regulatory system is funded entirely by the business community; CARU is financed by the children’s advertising industry, while NAD/NARC/NARB’s primary source of funding is derived from membership fees paid to the CBBB. ERSP’s funding is derived from membership in the Electronic Retailing Association. For more information about advertising industry self-regulation, please visit