Home Crowdflower and Gambit: Is this Child Labor for Virtual Goods?

Crowdflower and Gambit: Is this Child Labor for Virtual Goods?

While Crowdflower has forged some amazing partnerships in the past, including a deal with Samasource to launch a training program for Kenyan refugees, the company’s latest partnership has a somewhat questionable benefit statement. Crowdflower and Gambit are offering sponsored promotions for gamers to earn virtual currency via cloud-based labor. While the program sounds like a great idea, the pitch we received specified that promotions would help “monetize younger users”. It will be interesting to see how parents react to these promotions.

In order to protect their kids, many parents seek out age-appropriate web content like ReadWriteWeb’s list of kid-friendly resources. Others opt for tools like CYBERsitter that offer parental controls over web filtering software. While most of these tools protect against worst-case-scenarios, few protect against invasive advertising or remote labor offers.

Just this week a MediaPost article discussed how the Iconix Brand Group agreed to pay $250,000 after advertising to children without parental consent. While you wouldn’t normally associate brands like Candies shoes or Bongo denim with kids, Iconix collected birth date and user information from under 13-year-olds associated with these companies. Targeting newsletters and advertising to these users was enough to raise questions with the Federal Trade Commission. It will be interesting to see how Gambit and Crowdflower will balance the issue of parental consent amongst this younger labor force. Can we classify this as child labor if only virtual goods are involved?

Some of the tasks listed for casual gamers include tagging images and video clips, classifying text and finding business contact information. While others might argue that the web-task barter system is akin to earning one’s allowance, the fact that children could be scraping the web to help businesses advertise to us seems somewhat exploitative. While it’s too early to say how this program will pan out, there’s no doubt that Crowdflower and Gambit will have to walk a fine line to keep this program ethical.

Photo Credit: Jim Sneedon

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