Web-monitoring software gathers data on kid chatsSeptember 8, 2009 – 3:13 PM
Parents who install a leading brand of software to monitor their kids’ online activities may be unwittingly allowing the company to read their children’s chat messages — and sell the marketing data gathered.
Software sold under the Sentry and FamilySafe brands can read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send back data on what kids are saying about such things as movies, music or video games. The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids.
“This scares me more than anything I have seen using monitoring technology,” said Parry Aftab, a child-safety advocate. “You don’t put children’s personal information at risk.”
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.
Five other makers of parental-control software contacted by The Associated Press, including McAfee Inc. and Symantec Corp., said they do not sell chat data to advertisers.