Self-Regulatory Group Refers Club Penguin Planet to FTC

Children's Advertising Review Unit Cites Lack of Privacy Policy, Proper Age Screening

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Club Penguin Planet, the self-proclaimed No. 1 fan site for the popular Disney kids' web site Club Penguin, was referred to the Federal Trade Commission today by the Children's Advertising Review Unit. The Penguin Planet site failed to satisfy CARU's requests to post a privacy policy, and also did not implement age screening and parental consent as requested.

CARU noted among its concerns that the website includes a large field in the profile section (where age, sex, location and birthdate are asked) labeled "tell us a little bit about yourself" where members could type any personal information they wanted, and could do the same in online forums.

Club Penguin Planet, while a fan site for Walt Disney Co.'s Club Penguin, is not owned by Disney and not officially affiliated with the company or the site. Ironically, Disney's Club Penguin prides itself on online safety for kids as well as parental involvement. Club Penguin players online can even become "Secret Agents," the club's version of a neighborhood-watch program, and "help keep the island safe." One of its four key rules that members agree to at sign up is "Never reveal personal information."

Club Penguin Planet, the subject of the CARU complaint, did not respond to an email requesting comment.

About one-third of CARU's cases in 2010 involved website safety and privacy, a spokeswoman for the group said. Those cases included issues of improper age screening for kids under 13, allowing children to post personally identifiable information, and failure to provide notice to a parent. The websites CARU found violations against included not only lesser-known sites like the virtual world, but also Build-a-Bear Workshop, which had allowed children to craft their own messages for an e-card without parental consent. The company agreed to modify its web site. Virtual worlds and social media, such as email and online forums, made up a majority of the CARU privacy cases last year.

CARU monitors advertising and web sites directed at children under the age of 13. It seeks voluntary cooperation from the brand before referring it to the most appropriate federal agency.

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