CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Your kids may love milk and cookies but there's a type of cookie you don't want them to have.
When you surf online you know that marketing companies love to know your surfing habits and you expect it on some sites like Amazon.com which will give you helpful shopping suggestions. However, did you know that when your kids surf "kid friendly" sites they may have tens to hundreds of snooping firms looking over their shoulder?
A recent study compared tracking of kids sites versus all websites, and found an astonishing 30% more tracking tools were installed on computers that visited kid sites versus all types of websites.
Many kids love neopets at www.neopets.com where they can create make believe pets. If they hang out there online, they are being followed by marketing firms. In fact, for children who are not yet teens, this site has the highest number of tracking tools.
WHAT THE TOOLS DO:
They follow your kids as they surf the internet:
The good: Tracking tools, like cookies, remembers where your kid was the last time they were on a web page; and it makes it easy for kids to log in
Concerns: The tools build profiles detailing online browsing choices and other internet activities. Some tools are persistent and re-install even if you delete cookies.
The information collected by tracking tools does not include names but may include your kid's age, hobbies, general location, and other information you may consider personal in nature like where they like to browse or play online.
TEST IT YOURSELF:
Go to Google search and see what information pops up on the side of the screen. Do they match your interests?
Now open Google's "Ads Preferences" at www.google.com/ads/preferences to see what Google knows about you.
4 EASY TIPS - COVER SOME OF YOUR INTERNET TRACKS YOURSELF:
1. Teach your kids to come get you if asked to type in their name or other personal information -- even if there is a promise of a neat prize
2. Limit tracking by adjusting your Web Browser settings and Adobe Flash
3. You can periodically delete cookies.
4. You can opt out of internet ads.
Another thing Theresa wants you to know is that there are legal protections for kids online under 13.
YOUR KIDS DO HAVE LEGAL RIGHTS:
There is a law called COPPA – Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. If a child is under 13, parental consent must be provided before a marketing company can collect names or personal information. Tough to enforce if your kid fibs about their age.
ADDITIONAL WEB RESOURCES:
For more information on privacy controls and Adobe's Flash Player go to: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager02.html
The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing new approaches to how to provide better regulation for consumer protections. One idea they are researching takes the "do not call" registration for telemarketers and applies it to the internet. Think of it as a "do not track me online" registry. See: www.FTC.gov
In depth reporting about your privacy and your kids' privacy on the internet can be found at in a Wall Street Journal series: http://online.wsj.com/public/page/what-they-know-digital-privacy.html?mod=quicklinks_whattheyknow
You have other options for limiting or controlling online tracking of your surfing habits. Start with your web browser and there are several other resources. We have highlighted a few of them for you:
www.ghostery.com will show you when a company puts a tracking beacon on a page you are looking at.
www.networkadvertising.org allows you to opt out of online ads for many of the big ad networks