Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Walt Disney World is revealing plans to launch a new way of experiencing its parks–an electronic bracelet encoded with credit card information and technology to enable guests to make purchases within the parks and be notified when they are at the front of the line for popular rides. But even though Disney says the “MyMagic+” initiative will make a Disney vacation far less complicated for its estimated 30 million annual visitors, the system is raising some eyebrows among those who are concern with the privacy issues inherent in any data collection and “customized” marketing. From The New York Times:
The initiative is part of a broader effort, estimated by analysts to cost between $800 million and $1 billion, to make visiting Disney parks less daunting and more amenable to modern consumer behavior. Disney is betting that happier guests will spend more money.
“If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us,” said Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts.
The ambitious plan moves Disney deeper into the hotly debated terrain of personal data collection. Like most major companies, Disney wants to have as much information about its customers’ preferences as it can get, so it can appeal to them more efficiently. The company already collects data to use in future sales campaigns, but parts of MyMagic+ will allow Disney for the first time to track guest behavior in minute detail.
Did you buy a balloon? What attractions did you ride and when? Did you shake Goofy’s hand, but snub Snow White? If you fully use MyMagic+, databases will be watching, allowing Disney to refine its offerings and customize its marketing messages.
Disney is aware of potential privacy concerns, especially regarding children. The plan, which comes as the federal government is trying to strengthen online privacy protections, could be troublesome for a company that some consumers worry is already too controlling.
Image via Marketplace.org
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Thursday, December 13th, 2012
The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether mobile apps marketed to children may violate kids’ rights to privacy, and may be misleading parents with confusing and inaccurate privacy policies. The FTC has already identified a number of companies that are engaging in the dubious practices, tracking children’s mobile behaviors without the consent of parents. The FTC is also poised to vote on a new set of rules that would limit such companies’ ability to track pre-teens on their mobile devices. The Washington Post has more:
“The agency and the Obama administration have pushed for stronger protections for children who are spending more time than ever online, thanks largely to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in homes and schools.
While current law puts strict limits on advertising to children in print or on television, it provides fuzzier guidance on mobile technology, which can be far more invasive. Tech companies, for instance, can instantaneously locate a user, track a person’s social-media habits or keep a record of every Web site visited.
Those kinds of data, however sensitive to parents,have allowed companies to target ads and develop programs for children with a kind of precision that wasn’t available just a few years ago. The push by the government to update child privacy rules has faced resistance from Silicon Valley giants, including Facebook, Apple and Google, as well as the companies developing mobile apps. While they agree that children should be afforded special protections, they also argue some of the proposals would stifle a nascent and innovative industry.
Still, the FTC said it would launch “multiple” investigations into mobile apps companies that may have violated laws on deceptive practices or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law that public interest groups say badly needs an update. The agency declined to identify the names or the number of companies that it would target in its probes.”
Image: Young girl texting, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 1st, 2012
New rules designed to protect children online are the most comprehensive in more than a decade, regulators from the Federal Trade Commission are saying. The New York Times reports:
The moves come at a time when major corporations, app developers and data miners appear to be collecting information about the online activities of millions of young Internet users without their parents’ awareness, children’s advocates say. Some sites and apps have also collected details like children’s photographs or locations of mobile devices; the concern is that the information could be used to identify or locate individual children.
These data-gathering practices are legal. But the development has so alarmed officials at the Federal Trade Commission that the agency is moving to overhaul rules that many experts say have not kept pace with the explosive growth of the Web and innovations like mobile apps. New rules are expected within weeks.
“Today, almost every child has a computer in his pocket and it’s that much harder for parents to monitor what their kids are doing online, who they are interacting with, and what information they are sharing,” says Mary K. Engle, associate director of the advertising practices division at the F.T.C. “The concern is that a lot of this may be going on without anybody’s knowledge.”
The proposed changes could greatly increase the need for children’s sites to obtain parental permission for some practices that are now popular — like using cookies to track users’ activities around the Web over time. Marketers argue that the rule should not be changed so extensively, lest it cause companies to reduce their offerings for children.
Image: Child using computer, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 14th, 2012
A standardized test given to New Jersey third-graders will no longer include a question that asks students to reveal a secret and write about why it was difficult to keep. NBC News reports that the school board decided to remove the question after parents voiced concern that the question was intrusive and inappropriate:
“We’ve looked at this question in light of concerns raised by parents, and it is clear that this is not an appropriate question for a state test,” [Department of Education spokesman Justin] Barra said, adding that about 4,000 students in 15 districts had the question.
Marlboro dentist Richard Goldberg was among the parents who had raised concerns about the question.
Goldberg said he was appalled when he asked his twin 9-year-old sons about the standardized tests they were taking and they told him about the question. He said he felt it ventured into topics that would best be kept quiet and it could raise some serious complications, so he wasn’t surprised to hear the state decided to eliminate it from future tests.
“I got a lot of feedback from parents who also were outraged” about the matter, Goldberg told Neptune’s the Asbury Park Press newspaper. “All of a sudden now you have thousands and thousands of children possibly revealing things that now these people have to report, when the purpose of the exam was to see what the children’s critical reading skills were.”
Image: Students taking test, via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
A “kid-driven future of play and learning” is the call Rex Ishibashi, CEO of Callaway Digital Arts made this morning at The Sandbox Summit at MIT. Callaway makes mobile storybook apps featuring Sesame Street, Thomas the Tank Engine, and other beloved children’s characters.
Ishibashi’s observation from within the kid’s media industry is that regulations and privacy concerns, while important, are crowding out innovations that could help children learn more using technology.
“If we can’t help kids, perhaps we can provide them with safe tools where they can help themselves,” Ishibashi told the audience of educators, software developers, and entrepreneurs.
His proposal is that companies should prioritize ways to provide “safe social” for kids, allowing children under age 13 to participate in the flow of innovation and creativity available on the Internet and through social media, without violating their basic privacy. Parents, he argued, have become so concerned with protecting kids’ privacy that they have built a “mile-high cyclone fence” around their children, cutting them off from their full potential to engage with technology, feel involved in its future, and generate content for it.
If done right, Ishibashi argued, technology can serve both the 21st century kids who crave companionship, entertainment, and engagement, and the “digital parents” who want to give their children trustworthy, developmentally appropriate tools for learning.
Image: Computer privacy, via Shutterstock.
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