Web-monitoring software gathers data on kid chats

Parents who install a leading brand of software to monitor their kids' online activities may be unwittingly allowing the company to read their children's chat messages — and sell the marketing data gathered.

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.

Webmaster's Commentary: 

One of the greatest disappointments of my life is that I never got a chance to be a daddy. My first wife obtained an abortion without consulting me on the matter. That together with her drug abuse is why I am on my second (and final) wife. But no kids. I'm "uncle Mike" (both biological and symbolic) to lots of other peoples' kids but it isn't the same thing, of course.

I do not know what kind of parent I might have been. Nobody really does until they have to do it.

But one thing I know I would not do and that is to plant spyware and other gizmos to watch my children for me. I would hope that in growing up with me as an influence they would be worldly and wise enough to survive the jungle that this nation has become in both the real and virtual worlds. Any computers they were allowed to use would not monitor their behavior for me (and the marketing companies) nor would there be any web site blocking. If they do not understand what they are looking at they can come ask me and we will talk about it.

As I understand it, that is a big part of what being a parent is.

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