Harlem Globetrotters' Site Violated Children's Privacy Guidelines, BBB Says

The Harlem Globetrotters has agreed to change its method of collecting information from newsletter subscribers, a unit of the Better Business Bureau said this week.

The basketball exhibition team's Web site invites visitors to subscribe to an email newsletter by entering their names, email addresses and ZIP codes. The site, which has a section devoted to “kids games,” previously required subscribers to check a box stating, “You are 13 or older.”

The BBB's Children's Advertising Review Unit says that procedure didn't comply with children's privacy guidelines, which provide that operators of sites directed at children must conduct age-screening in a “neutral” manner.

“CARU does not consider asking a visitor to confirm that he or she is over the age of 13 to be neutral,” the self-regulatory group says in an opinion made public issued this week.

The group recommended that the site “modify its age-screening method to one that is neutral to discourage inaccurate answers from children trying to avoid parental permission and notice requirements.”

The self-regulatory group's guidelines aim to implement the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits Web site operators from knowingly collecting personal information from children under 13 without their parents' permission.

The organization said it came upon the site through an ad that appeared in Boy's Life magazine.

The Globetrotters' organization said it wasn't aware that the site didn't comply with self-regulatory guidelines, according to the written decision. The group added that it would work with the Children's Advertising Review Unit to revise its site.

As of Thursday, the site's e-newsletter subscription tool asks visitors to provide their birthdates.

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