Internet Research in Online Environments for Children: Readability of Privacy and Terms of Use Policies; The Uses of (Non)Personal Data by Online Environments and Third-Party Advertisers

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Journal of Virtual Worlds Research






Online environments encourage their prospects, including children and teens, to register and provide information about themselves in order to participate in online activities. Many sites' privacy and terms of use policies tend to provide hard-to-understand explanations about their data-using practices, contributing to a widespread confusion regarding the differences between what counts as non-personal versus personal data, and whether this data could be used for behavioral targeting or selling. Little research has been done on online advertising self-regulations and repercussions stemming from privacy-related dilemmas associated with them (Markham & Buchanan, 2012). Given the push of advertising networks to substantiate self-regulatory policies regarding online advertising (Luft, 2008; Lal Bhasin, 2008), this study investigates how privacy and terms of use policies reflect media self-regulations and privacy-related dilemmas worldwide (Federal Trade Commission, 2000; European Commission, 2012). Addressing self-regulatory practices of online media entities and their implications, this study also conducts the readability tests of privacy and terms of use-related policies of Neopets as an example of a popular virtual environment. Finally, it discusses the use of (non)personal data provided by children and teens, while evaluating how marketers' promotional initiatives operate online, and how marketers self-regulate across the United States and the European Union. Implications are discussed and recommendations regarding how marketers in online environments may enhance their reputation by being responsible given their promotional activities in online environments are offered.


Advertising, Internet privacy, Children, Online self-regulation



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