‘Dear Santa’ Web sites? BBB Recommends Adults Check the Privacy Policy Twice

December 21, 2012

More than 60 domain names are registered in the name of Santa Claus, offering children a wide range of opportunities to email St. Nick. Sadly, some of the websites aren’t always so trustworthy and can potentially be a dangerous way to share personal information.

Before allowing children to share any personal information with a “Letter to Santa” Website, Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona and BBB’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) recommends that adults carefully review such sites to determine who is seeking the information, how it will be used and whether it will be shared with third parties.

“Even Santa is required to comply with CARU’s Online Privacy Protection guidelines and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” said Wayne J. Keeley, CARU’s director.

All websites directed to children – or websites designed with a special children’s section – should have a privacy policy that explains the site’s information collection practices. The privacy policy should include the name of the company and the company’s complete contact information.

It should also state whether the company shares information with third parties, including advertisers, and whether the company publically discloses the information or retains the information for any future purpose.

CARU offered the following ‘Dear Santa’ site review tips:

  • Websites directed to children should not ask a child to disclose more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in the activity – a first name and email address, for instance.
  • Limit the personal information children share with Santa and omit physical 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.
  • Since hyperlinks can allow children to move seamlessly from one site to another, investigate the hyperlinks to assure children don’t access inappropriate content.

For more information on how to keep your kids safe online, please visit www.CARU.org. Parents who are concerned about the safety of specific child-directed websites and advertising can file a complaint at http://www.caru.org/complaint.