McDonald’s Corp. has reportedly announced plans to scrap “forward-to-afriend” features on some of its online games after drawing complaints from a consumer group concerned about children’s privacy. According to media sources, the global restaurant chain said it will disable a sharing option on HappyMeal.com that allowed users “to e-mail ecards, links and photos to family and friends.”
“Rest assured, the online security of our guests—especially our youngest guests—remains a top priority for us,” a company spokesperson told reporters. “We continuously review and enhance our sites as appropriate and we recently made some updates to HappyMeal.com, including removing the forward-to-a-friend option.”
Earlier this year, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) filed five complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against companies such as McDonald’s and General Mills, Inc. over the use of interactive media to allegedly promote foods and TV programs to children. CDD claimed that these so-called “viral marketing” techniques violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and called on FTC to investigate their use. “It took a complaint to get the company to realize that it wasn’t respecting either the privacy of the young users or their parents,” CDD Executive Director Jeff Chester was quoted as saying. “McDonald’s actions illustrate why the FTC must do a better job enforcing COPPA’s requirements, and why the commission’s proposed updates to cover new privacy threats to kids—such as mobile tracking of kids—should be adopted.” Additional details about the FTC complaints appear in Issue 451 of this Update. See the Washington Post Blog, October 23, 2012.