The teeming, screaming masses of fans in love with Justin Bieber, Rihanna or Demi Lovato are young and Internet savvy, and a tempting demographic for businesses. The thing is, you can try to market to those kids but you can’t collect their personal information without parental permission, which is why the operator of fan Web sites for those three musicians has to pay $1 million for running afoul of Federal Trade Commission rules.
It’s illegal to collect things like email addresses, names, birth dates and genders of kids 12 and younger without asking for permission from their parents, according to child online-privacy laws.
New York-based firm Artist Arena runs the sites for those musicians and others, and has agreed to pay that hefty fine for collecting such data as well as signing kids up for fan newsletters, reports the Washington Post. The FTC says the company was totally aware of what it was doing, because children had to key in birthdates when registering for the sites.
“Marketers need to know that even a bad case of Bieber Fever doesn’t excuse their legal obligation to get parental consent before collecting personal information from children,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement, adding that a review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is underway to ensure that the agency “continues to protect kids growing up in the digital age.”
It’s that very Internet savvy that online marketers are tapping into — kids these days have grown up for the Internet and will turn to it almost without thought when they’re interested in something. That could be a kids’ TV show, a toy or a game played through social media, which is why the FTC is beefing up its laws. Everything has changed since it first had to consider the safety of kids online 12 years ago.