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The Scoop

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Verbatim: Some ‘Dear Santa’ websites are naughty

Statement issued by the Better Business Bureau of northern Indiana:

More than 60 domain names have been registered in the name of Santa Claus, offering children a wide range of opportunities to e-mail St. Nick. But before allowing children to share personal information with a “Letter to Santa” website, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) recommends that adults carefully review the site to determine who is seeking the information, how it will be used and whether it will be shared with third parties.

“Even Santa is required to comply with CARU’s Online Privacy Protection guidelines and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” said Wayne J. Keeley, CARU’s director.

All Websites directed to children – or Websites designed with a special children’s section – should have a privacy policy that explains the site’s information collection practices. The privacy policy should include the name of the company and the company’s complete contact information.

It should also state whether the company shares information with third parties, including advertisers, and whether the company publically discloses the information or retains the information for any future purpose.

CARU offered the following ‘Dear Santa’ site review tips:

  • Websites directed to children should not ask a child to disclose more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in the activity – a first name and email address, for instance.
  • Limit the personal information children share with Santa and omit physical addresses – Santa already knows where all the children live.
  • Check Websites for unwelcome content. Some sites are geared toward adults and may contain language or advertising adults may not want children to see.
  • Since hyperlinks can allow children to move seamlessly from one site to another, investigate the hyperlinks to assure children don’t access inappropriate content.
For more information on Website safety and children, please visit CARU at www.CARU.org. Parents who are concerned about the safety of specific child-directed websites and advertising can file a complaint at http://www.caru.org/complaint/index.aspx.

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