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The law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, requires Web site operators to obtain verifiable consent from parents before collecting personal information about children under age 13.

But as with any law, there are apparent loopholes that allow sites to collect some information, and that it what spurred a coalition of nearly 20 US children’s advocacy, health and public interest groups to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday.

The NYT reports that among the websites named in the complaint are McDonald’s HappyMeal.com; Nickelodeon’ Nick.com; General Mills’ and TrixWorld.com; SubwayKids.com; and Turner’s CartoonNetwork.com.

They stand accused of offering children games to play online, then asking them to “tell a friend” by providing the email of their friends – effectively bypassing the aforementioned law. Also, some of them have allegedly been tracking children’s activities online and asking them to to upload their photographs.

Many of the companies who run those sites commented on their practices by saying that they are within the bounds of the law, and some of them said that they would be investigating the allegations.

It remains to be seen what the FTC will conclude after the investigation.

By asking children to register with the site, join a kids’ club, enter a contest, or fill out a questionnaire, these sites can compile names, addresses, favorite activities and commercial products. This information then is used to create customer lists, which may be sold to brokers who, in turn, sell them to other businesses.

MORE about how your child’s data is TRACKED online:

On the Web, Children Face Intensive Tracking/WSJ

Children More Intensively Spied Upon than Adults/Bloomberg

Children’s data is intensely tracked online/ArticleBase

2 General Mills Websites accused of collecting kid’s data/Star Tribune

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