Summary: A new study conducted by the University of Ottawa reveals that Canadian children are being targeted with fast food advertisements through data collected from apps. The research emphasizes the limited understanding of what data is being collected from children on these apps and how it is being utilized by marketing agencies. The study found privacy “loopholes” that have allowed companies to deliver junk food ads to children. There is a lack of transparency regarding the data collected and its intended purposes. Health Canada has announced plans to address this issue by implementing new regulations by winter 2024, following a recommendation by the World Health Organization in July to protect children from unhealthy food and beverage marketing. The study focused on the privacy policies and terms of service of 26 Canadian fast food and dine-in restaurant apps. Five of these apps were studied in-depth by involving children aged nine to twelve in ordering food and subsequently requesting information about the data collected from the child. Less than half of the restaurants provided this information to the parents, highlighting a significant gap in knowledge about the data collection practices targeting children.
The study conducted by the University of Ottawa reveals the concerning reality of Canadian children being targeted with fast food advertisements through data collected from apps. This first-of-its-kind research sheds light on the limited understanding of the data collected from children on these apps and the undisclosed purposes behind it. Privacy “loopholes” have enabled marketing agencies to exploit these practices and deliver junk food ads to children.
Professor Monique Potvin Kent, the lead author of the study, expressed the alarming lack of knowledge regarding the data collected and its potential usage by food companies. There is a pressing need for transparency and regulations to protect children from such targeted marketing tactics.
In response to this growing concern, Health Canada has announced its intention to draft new regulations addressing this issue by winter 2024. The World Health Organization also recommended in July that countries should adopt rules to safeguard children from unhealthy food and beverage marketing, further emphasizing the urgency of the matter.
The study investigated the privacy policies and terms of service of 26 Canadian fast food and dine-in restaurant apps. Additionally, five apps were specifically studied in-depth, involving children aged nine to twelve in the process. These children’s guardians were then asked to request information about the data collected from their child. Shockingly, less than half of the studied restaurants provided any substantial information regarding data collection practices, creating what the researchers described as a “black hole” of knowledge about the extent and intentions of marketers targeting children.
This study, funded by the Heart & Stroke, underscores the necessity for stricter regulations concerning marketing practices aimed at children. Transparent and responsible data collection practices must be established to protect young consumers from the potentially detrimental influence of targeted ads.
– University of Ottawa study on fast food ads targeting Canadian children
– Health Canada’s plan to draft regulations to address the issue by winter 2024
– World Health Organization’s recommendation for regulations on food and beverage marketing to children