Fast food giant McDonald’s has removed the HappyMeal.com’s social features after it was accused of violating child online privacy laws.
The Huffington Post reports McDonald’s announced it removed the virtual world’s “forward-to-a-friend” feature following a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. Privacy advocacy group The Center for Digital Democracy accused McDonald’s of ignoring the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and using deceptive marketing practices to get underage users to give up their friends email addresses without acquiring parental permission.
HappyMeal.com not only provides games for kids to play, it also allows lets users input Happy Meal codes to unlock site rewards. The upper left hand of the site now includes the message “Hey Kids, this is advertising!” though it isn’t apparent if this was in place before Friday’s changes.
Meanwhile, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are also planning to file FTC complaints against groups like General Mills, Subway, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
The FTC is clearly taking a more active role in going after groups who violate the Children’s Online Privacy Act. Back in March, RockYou finally settled with the FTC after it collected information from roughly 179,000 children (many of whom were younger than 13-years-old) without their parents’ consent. The settlement required the company to pay a $250,000 civil penalty and submit to security audits every other year for 20 years.