Two Kids' Social Networking Sites Reported to Feds for Privacy Problems

children's sitesThe owner of two social networking sites intended for children, FBFkids.com (formerly Facebook for Kids.com), has been reported to the Federal Trade Commission by a self-regulating arm of the children's advertising industry.

The Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CARU) referred the owner to the FTC after it failed to participate in a review of the privacy practices of its sites, FBFkids.com, and FBFkiddies.com, the group announced in a press release.CARU monitors websites for compliance with its Self-Regulatory Program for Children's Advertising, including guidelines for online privacy protection, as well as with the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

After an initial review, CARU found FBFkids.com and FBFkiddies.com, which promote themselves as sites for children under 13, allow visitors to create user profiles, play games, chat with other members in real time, and post pictures and videos. To register, visitors must enter a username, email address and password.

When CARU initially reviewed FBFkids.com, the group said, the site did not display a privacy policy. Further, in the site's chat rooms and profiles, children were able to enter personally identifiable information (PII) including their full names and telephone numbers.

Both CARU's guidelines and COPPA, the group says, require website operators to obtain verifiable parental consent prior to collecting personally identifiable information such as email addresses or allowing children to participate in chat rooms where they can post revealing information.

When contacted by CARU, the site's operator failed to provide a "substantive written response," which triggered a request for review by the FTC.

FBFkids.com failed to respond to Consumer Ally requests for comment.

The site, which says on its homepage "is NOT Associated with Facebook, Myspace or facebook for kids," (sic) also gives no indication of ownership or location beyond the following statement:(which appears here un-edited)

We are a family just like yourselves. I am a Mother of 2 (Mother Hen) My oldest son is 20 and very heavily into computers and on site videos and games My youngest son is just approaching 5 and is just starting to surf My Husband Studied Computer Science at The University of Weston Ontario I am originally Dutch, as is my oldest son. My Youngest son was born in Spain and My Husband is English having lived in Canada, and America. I speak 4 Languages (Dutch, German, Spanish, and English) and we all now live in in the UK.

When Consumer Ally examined the site, links to the privacy and safety and terms and conditions pages from the the site's "About" page were dead. However, separate links to the privacy and terms page did take users to live pages.

CARU spokeswoman Linda Bean said site operators sometimes make changes to their websites after being contacted by her group, but added such efforts still fall short.

"They may look at the list of concerns and address them in some fashion, but the requirement is still for a substantial written response," Bean said.

The National Advertising Review Council (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) and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP).

In February, the NARB advised Time Warner to pull ads claiming its telecommunications services are carried on a fully fiber-optic network.

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