You Better Watch Out Before Emailing Wish Lists to Santa

wish list to santaBefore allowing children to email their Christmas wish lists to Santa Claus, parents better watch out how the website collects and uses personal information.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus' Children's Advertising Review Unit said more than 60 domain names are registered in the name of Santa Claus this year and recommended parents check out the site before their children do.

"What we hope parents are mindful of is that any site directed at children is required to abide by pretty basic privacy rules," Linda Bean, CARU's communications director, told Consumer Ally. "That includes sites that seem so innocent and charming as a letter-to-Santa site."So not only do consumers have to deal with wish lists that constantly change or are far too expensive to fulfill, but parents also have to keep a wary eye on the very sites that spread holiday cheer and private information.

Parents can use this list of tips from the BBB -- and check it twice -- when reviewing a site to find out if it's naughty or nice and follows online child privacy laws:

CARU offered the following "Dear Santa" site review tips:
  • Websites geared toward children should not ask for more information than necessary to participate -- a first name and email address, for example.
  • Limit the personal information shared with Santa and leave out home addresses -- Santa already knows where all the children live.
  • Check websites for unwelcome content. Some sites are geared toward adults and may contain language or advertising adults may not want children to see.
  • Investigate the hyperlinks to assure children don't access inappropriate content.
If parents find anything questionable, they shouldn't share any personal information and go elsewhere to contact Santa, Bean said. Parents can also file a complaint with the advertising review unit.

"There are a lot of sites to choose from," Bean said. "It does require investigation."

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires sites to post their privacy policies and also allows parents to delete information and opt out of having personal information shared. The act applies to all sites that collect data from children under 13.
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