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Parental Control Software Datamines Kids' Online Conversations 105

An AP report reveals that web-monitoring software from Sentry and FamilySafe, both developed by EchoMetrix Inc., is harvesting data from kids' online chats, trying to determine their opinions on games, movies, and music. The data is then sold to other companies for advertising purposes. "In June, EchoMetrix unveiled a separate data-mining service called Pulse that taps into the data gathered by Sentry software to give businesses a glimpse of youth chatter online. While other services read publicly available teen chatter, Pulse also can read private chats. It gathers information from instant messages, blogs, social networking sites, forums and chat rooms. ... Parents who don't want the company to share their child's information to businesses can check a box to opt out. But that option can be found only by visiting the company's Web site, accessible through a control panel that appears after the program has been installed. It was not in the agreement contained in the Sentry Total Home Protection program The Associated Press downloaded and installed Friday."
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Parental Control Software Datamines Kids' Online Conversations

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  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:21AM (#29339973) Homepage Journal

    When you delegate your parental responsibilities.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:24AM (#29339995) Journal

    Part of me wants to give a big Nelson ha-ha to the overprotective parents who install this crap trying to save their children from the eeeevil people on the Internet. Is it really any surprise that the corporations most interested in "protecting" your children are those who have figured out a way to exploit them?

  • Sue them. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:26AM (#29340017) Journal
    Seriously. EULA or not, this is invading the children privacies. There must be a law against this.
  • Re:Sue them. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KlaasVaak ( 1613053 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:32AM (#29340061)
    Well I don't know about America but in the EU this would certainly be illegal I think you wouldn't even have to file a civil suit they would just be prosecuted But I know in America companies have much more freedom to fuck over their customers so maybe this was legal with you.
  • by tinkertim ( 918832 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:35AM (#29340087) Homepage

    When you delegate your parental responsibilities.

    As a parent of a three year old girl, I agree with you. However, standing over their shoulder the entire time they use a computer is not going to be very productive.

    I wish more parents would understand that you have about 8 years from the time that a kid is born to install a sense of confidence and worth in them that can't be easily (if at all) broken by future peers, predators or come what may. If you manage to do it, your kid will make good choices.

    No software is a substitute for a desire in a child to make good, positive self serving choices when they are confronted with the various bumps in growing up.

    What a world this police state is becoming, sheesh.

  • Wonderful ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by krou ( 1027572 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:37AM (#29340123)
    FamilySafe: Protecting your kids, but not from us!
  • Re:Sue them. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Twanfox ( 185252 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @11:42AM (#29340729)
    I seem to recall there being a law stating that no information may be collected from a under 13 years of age. It's called the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) [coppa.org]. I don't know much more about what the software is asking, and whom it is asking, but it seems to me they're treading dangerous ground by doing this kind of thing.
  • by Temujin_12 ( 832986 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @11:44AM (#29340759)

    My wife and I view our responsibility as parents as very basic:

    1) Provide basic necessities an enjoyments of life (emphasis on necessities)
    2) Provide love and a feeling of trust and safety in the home
    3) Teach them a strong sense of identity and self-worth
    4) Teach our kids what choices are, how to recognize good from bad choices, and how to accept the consequences of you actions

    For computers, here's our strategy:

    1) Place computers in a open public place (including our own)
    2) Teach them that computers are a tool and how people use it for good and bad
    3) Openly discuss what acceptable and unacceptable behavior with computers/games are
    4) Limit time spent on computer
    5) As much as possible, don't create double standards
    6) Use OpenDNS and block certain sites depending on their age

    We feel parental technology should be used to reinforce what you're already teaching, not as a substitute.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @11:51AM (#29340841)

    Mod parent up. Repeating these cliches is so interesting and informative.

    He mentioned we have violence but no sex on our TV! Did you know that?!? And he complained about parents! (Not sure what he was trying to say about parents, but some of them are bad, I guess.)

    It's the world's most insightful post.

  • by Dreadneck ( 982170 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @11:54AM (#29340883)
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? -- Juvenal
  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday September 07, 2009 @02:03PM (#29342385) Homepage Journal

    "Im sure there was something deep down in the fine print that will derail a suit."

    Bullshit. When parents find out their children are being used for profit-making without their consent, not only is it going to be a shitstorm but it just might get COPPA reinstated.
    Never underestimate the backlash of millions of pissed off parents. Many of them will do absolutely psychotic things to defend their children from any perceived threat.

  • by quanticle ( 843097 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @03:59PM (#29343397) Homepage

    There's a reason these stereotypes exist. Its because, in a large number of cases, they're actually true. If nothing else, the success of these companies proves that. The success of "Think of the children!" legislation proves it too.

    No one in power is standing up to the parents of America and saying, "Hey, the reason your kids are fat and emotionally maladjusted is because you're too scared to let them go out on their own and make their own decisions." So, its up to people like us to make that point and hammer away at it until it sinks in.

  • by Dhalka226 ( 559740 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @07:57PM (#29345177)

    You know what I think makes one unfit to be a parent? Commenting on hypothetical parents with hypothetical children using absolute statements that attempt to assert some sort of moral superiority for letting kids do anything they want.

    Contrary to what you think, there isn't a right or wrong answer; it's specific to the parents and the child. Some may consider it a good opportunity to let their children go wherever they want on the Internet and then talk about whatever they see as it comes up. That's perfectly healthy. So is wanting to make sure your child is mentally and/or emotionally prepared for such discussion. I don't personally have a problem with sex or relatively small children seeing it, but I certainly wouldn't want to be explaining bestiality or why that man has that woman tied to the ceiling and is hurting her to a six year old. It's also worth throwing in at this point that parental controls are about more than content blocking.

    Some people are control freaks, some people are fools, some people will take things farther than they need to go. But thinking differently than you does not instantly make somebody stupid or an unfit parent. It does not make their decisions some disease to avoid passing on at all costs.

    Personally, I'd be more concerned about passing on your grammar than a parent deciding porn sites aren't appropriate for a six year old.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"