Posted September 9, 2009 9:34 am by with 6 comments

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Watching MeCompanies that sell software to monitor your child’s online activity are double-dipping by selling the collected data to marketers, according to AP.

Not every software provider is engaging in the practice, but EchoMetrix Inc’s Sentry and FamilySafe brands are called out in particular. Because the software “listens” to the instant messenger conversations of kids, it’s able to package that information for marketers interested in learning of the latest trends of this young demographic. While this immediately sounds alarming, the companies claim there is no risk to the privacy of the children being monitored:

The company that sells the software insists it is not putting kids’ information at risk, since the program does not record children’s names or addresses. But the software knows how old they are because parents customize its features to be more or less permissive, depending on age.

That’s all well and good, but didn’t AOL anonymize its search data? That worked well, didn’t it?

With the software costing up to $50 a year, you’d think there wouldn’t be the need to get greedy, but with such little data available on the “under 13” age group, marketers are willing to pay big bucks for such data.

If you’re using such a service, you should look for any option to “opt out” and always read the software’s terms and conditions carefully.

So, what do you think of this? As a marketer, are you intrigued or outraged? Parents, what say you?


  • As a marketer, I find it disgusting, and pretty damn terrifying. I’ve always been uncomfortable with deliberately marketing products and/or ideas to children, and have tried not to get involved with it wherever possible. But collecting *any* form of data on children for marketing purposes, regardless of whether it’s technically anonymous or not, is unacceptable if no consent has been given.

    At least, that’s my opinion 😉

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  • Joseph Rizzo

    The word is…despicable.

  • Cath

    It’s ethically dubious at the very least, companies who are doing it may have something in the terms of agreements but realistically how many people read those? Or in this case, explain them to their children? Implied consent isn’t consent, no matter what legal technicalities companies hide behind.

  • Mark Walker

    This is just another example of the behind the scenes cr*p we get from today’s world greedy business. They are sure it’s OK because they want it; anything they want is OK, and today there are so many more things to want…