Child-safety software sells your kids' IM conversations to market-research companies

You know that "child-safety" software that monitors your kids' every click and sends it to some spyware creep whose main profit-center is running national firewalls for totalitarian states who use the same service to figure out whom to hood, kidnap and torture?

Turns out that these same sleazeballs also monitor your kids' IM sessions and sell the info to market-research companies that want to fine-tune how they sell sugar and explosions to kids.

Software sold under the Sentry and FamilySafe brands can read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send back data on what kids are saying about such things as movies, music or video games. The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids.

"This scares me more than anything I have seen using monitoring technology," said Parry Aftab, a child-safety advocate. "You don't put children's personal information at risk..."

EchoMetrix, formerly known as SearchHelp, said companies that have tested the chat data using Pulse include News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting and Dreamworks SKG Inc. Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures recently signed on.

Web-monitoring software gathers data on kid chats (via /.)


  1. Oh, come on! This is nothing compared to the real dangers facing our kids, like listening to the president giving a speech about staying in school.

  2. No matter how douchbaggy or trustworthy such a company is. I couldn’t even begin to consider using one, until such time as there is a “customizable” version, one that will actually ask you what is and isn’t acceptable, respecting each family’s personal views and code.

    Then again, that would be almost as much work as, you know, actually educating the kids. So I guess not.

  3. Cory, I thought this was supposed to be your day off. Go relax.

    Back on topic, I’m of the opinion that market-research people should be more despised by society in general than lawyers and politicians.

  4. That’s pretty despicable behavior, but can you blame them? Selling sugar and explosions to children is an uphill battle, believe you me.

  5. EchoMetrix CEO Jeff Greene said the company complies with U.S. privacy laws and does not collect any identifiable information.

    “We never know the name of the kid — it’s bobby37 on the house computer,” Greene said.

    Yeah, cuz we all know how well that works.

  6. I wonder how the people who knowingly and willingly work on these things can go home at night, kiss their children goodnight and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
    I really do.

  7. if you have to use net nanny software on your own kids, you’ve already failed as a parent. The only possible circumstance I can see that might slightly justify such is if you have been coerced into caring for the children of others that you know intend to maliciously and falsely prosecute you later and you need to establish a paper trail of due diligence. You know, like school teachers.

  8. Disgusting. But, can you imagine being the guys/gals who have to read and analyze those IM’s?! Reading conversations between self-aggrandising 12 and 13 year olds all day would be enough to drive anyone mad!

    1. DirtyLittleSecrets,

      Please don’t put sig-links at the end of your posts.. it looks like spam.

  9. here is marketing for you

    13 year old boys want “to see a nekkid woman”

    girls? I dunno, unicorns or something.

    18 yr old boys want “to see a nekkid woman”

    girls? i dunno, boy band stuff, or booze

    25 yr old boys want “to see a nekkid woman”

    girls? i dunno money

    45 yr old boys want “to see a nekkid woman”

    girls? i dunno, alimony?

  10. having recently found a computer left out for the trash (turns out all good but the power supply!), and also being totally in love with digital archeology, I read all the text I could find on it.

    I prefer to read computer data over 10 years old, cause that’s hilarious, but this machine WAS filled with just the natterings of teens. Bleck! My brain shrunk three sizes that day, and still bangs around like a pea in a barrel.

    that aside I assume that they don’t employ humans, or if so they are in 3rd world at 3rd world rates.

  11. I am pretty sure you can do the same sort of thing (block stuff from your kids, not be creepy and invasive) by using and a modified hosts file. I know linux mint will let you block certain addresses as well. I’m building a linux box for my nieces (which makes me Geeky Claus, I think!) and will use opendns as well as adblock and so on.

    It seems to me like we’re going to end up with either a wonderful world of creative freedom and few walls or else corporate/governmental intrusion into every part of our lives. I remember a book, ‘Woman Standing At The Edge of Time’ with that theme. Had to read it for a social work class, which was a good deal as it was rather good.

    Slightly off-topic, but social conservatives could be an ally in this fight. They don’t want government intrusion or control, either. JFK did a good job of reaching out to them, being big on fighting Communism and cutting taxes while starting the Great Society and pushing for civil rights.

  12. #9 Takuan, you read my mind. I speak plainly to my boys about all sorts of topics that seem challenging to some parents: sex, drugs, when its OK to curse and not get in trouble, how to avoid letting your friends drag you into trouble with them, etc. I feel the same way about helmets: my boys have both learned to fall, just like I did, with no helmet just a tuck and roll. Besides, scabs are fun!

  13. I should point out, that Parry Aftab is a very real cyber-bully.

    About five years ago, she worked for penguin books, which foolishly published a book of the title (stupid name), unfortunately, that domain had been registered in real life since 1996 as a personal website.

    So, Parry Aftab was more than happy to make ridiculous threats against the domains legitimate owner and demand the domain name.
    She actually tried to claim that a book publisher that came out with a book in 2002 owned the rights to a domain name registered in 1996.

    She’s a total media whore now hawking her crap about “cyber-bullying”.
    I guess she would know, bullying people herself.

    She doesn’t deserve our attention.

  14. I hate programs like this it amounts to parental neglect in my opinion, if you won’t teach your children to surf the internet responsibly then you shouldn’t allow them access to a computer at all.

  15. I wonder if this would be a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998

    SEC. 1303.


  16. @Creesto

    I admire your candor with your kids, but visit a head trauma unit some time and get some perspective.

    Then make damn sure they wear helmets.

  17. Yeah helmets are a good plan. learning to fall is good too, which is all kinds of useful if you have some warning about the fall… and it’s at low speed, but if a car hits you….

    Basically the question should be “would my life improve with brain damage?”

  18. It’s all good, people. This is a private corporation doing this, not the evil socialist government. You can trust the market to do the right thing.

  19. Oh oh.. helmets? I taught my daughter to yell to anyone who bothers her about a helmet “well, retarded people need them to walk, and I don’t see yours…”


    that’ll show em.

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