How to Turn Kids Into Debt Slaves: Toymakers Busted for Data Mining Children
There’s no better way to prepare kids for the future than through play. The lessons we learn during playtime as youngsters will stick with us through life. How else could we learn the rules of society and how we should appropriately work within those rules?
Back in the old days, we learned that if we were jerks to the neighbor kids, we’d get clotheslined playing Red Rover. Ouch. But, lesson learned, don’t be a jerk – or if you are, expect that people will react accordingly.
These days, no one is playing anything “dangerous” like Red Rover or tag. Heck, you could practically get arrested for suggesting such hazardous pastimes.
But playtime is still preparing children for a very specific future. Like life in the Surveillance State, for example. Or how to become a consumer debt slave from the moment you begin to earn money. Information that is innocently given away can be used in manipulative and corrupt ways, and now, businesses are targeting very young children and beginning the data collection early.
Three Major Toy Companies and Nickelodeon TV Just Got Busted for Data Mining Children
In a dark and dangerous corner of the web, there lurks all sorts of bad characters, people who lurk on social media gaining trust and personal details from children for some form of their own perverted gratification.
But did you know that some of the folks out there lurking and mining information from your children are representatives of three major toy manufacturers and a children’s TV station?
Probably not the image they want to cultivate, but it turns out, it’s true.
You know those toys that you can get your kids that have a cool corresponding website online? The ones where your kiddo can register a doll’s “birth certificate” or where your children can pit their electronic race car results against the results of other kids? Maybe your child can even play learning games there?
Those are the ones. Those seemingly harmless and innocent sites are data-mining information from your kids, and stashing it away to use later.
The owner of the Nickelodeon TV network and three well-known toy makers have been found guilty after their websites were found to contain tracking technology. Other websites are still being investigated over the same allegations. And let me tell you, the judge sure cracked down on these companies that make literally hundreds of millions in sales each year.
- Mattel – tracking tech was found on its Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, Monster High, Ever After High and Thomas & Friends sites. They were fined $250,000
- Jumpstar – tracking tech was found on its Neopets site in addition to a plug-in that sent data about visitors to Facebook. They werefined $85
- Viacom – tracking tech was found on its Nick Jr and Nickelodeon sites, which contain pages for TV shows including Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were fined $500,000
- Hasbro – tracking tech was found on a site promoting its Nerf blasters. The firm was not fined
What they’re doing is very similar to what those store loyalty cards do. They’re figuring out your child’s interests and then targeting them as consumers.
In our buy, buy, buy society, we’re all oxen being put in a consumer yoke that leaves us deeply in debt, enslaved to our jobs, and in search of our next shopping fix. And data is the tool they’re using to harness us to this machine.
The data-mining is starting early these days.
Of course, for companies like these, the fines are laughable. $85??? Seriously?
The take-home lesson here is that something had to be done, but what they did was an insult to concerned parents everywhere. The judge in charge obviously doesn’t care in the least that a) laws put in place to protect children were violated and b) these children have been data-mined and that information is out there.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said:
“Now children live online and we have to police the internet as we seek to police our streets, I don’t want there to be a dossier on any child that can be used later to scam them.”
In the United States, it’s illegal for websites aimed at children under 13 to have any means of gathering information on the sites’ users unless parental permission is sought and granted. None of the websites investigated had complied with this law.
Don’t worry, though. They’ve learned their lesson. They promise. All four of the businesses have signed a legally binding agreement to monitor their sites to ensure that children details are not kept and to make sure that they don’t fall foul of the law in future.
Even if they had complied, many parents think nothing of signing children up for online “educational” websites and mindlessly granting permission for their youngsters’ information to be stored. After all, what’s the big deal?
Watch this clip to learn what the big deal is.
Be careful what information you put out there about your children. All of those fun “quizzes” on the websites you sign them up to are painting a picture.
Right now, that picture is being used to target your kids for marketing…Later, as new algorithms are created, who knows what that information will be used for? Some of the information is “dark data.” That is information that they have no use for now, but it is being stored for a time when it can be used.
Merry Data-Mining Christmas.
This story makes me feel much better about my choice to greatly limit electronic toys and games when my kids were little. Of course, back in the olden days when I was raising toddlers, the toys weren’t attached to the internet, but still. Books don’t spy on you.
You have to wonder how often this goes on and we don’t know about it. I think if we knew, even the most suspicious of us would be astounded. Most of the ways companies data mine seem so innocent, often fun, and rarely extremely intrusive. But those small bits of information can add up and tell an awful lot about you or your children.
Safeguarding our children should be of paramount importance but it’s impossible to act on something you don’t know about – or if you don’t understand the threat.
In the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays, children across the country will be online looking for the latest must-have toy or game. Make your choices with this story in mind.