Advocacy Groups Say YouTube Illegally Collects Data on Kids

Troy Powers
April 11, 2018

The group is demanding Google to change the process of managing content for younger audiences and apparently wants to sue YouTube for allegedly profiting off by children's viewing habits. The law requires companies to inform parents and get their permission before collecting any data on their children.

"Google has made substantial profits from the collection and use of personal data from children on YouTube".

The group, which includes the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), argues that YouTube does not meet the requirements of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

"If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the service", the terms say.

It's a warning that goes unheeded by millions of children around the world who visit YouTube to watch cartoons, nursery rhymes, science experiments or videos of toys being unboxed.

Kid-focused channels can have huge subscriber bases and make significant amounts of money on ads. It has 14 million subscribers and its videos have been viewed more than 16 billion times. "(The video) shows the different little features, little toys that they have".

In addition to not obtaining parental consent prior to collecting children's data, the group says YouTube further violates COPPA by not having a children's privacy policy and making no effort to provide parents that data is being collected.

However, according to a study cited by the coalition, only 24 percent of children who watch YouTube actually use the Youtube Kids app.

YouTube tracks search history and other data about users so it can tailor ads to them.

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The complaint to the FTC alleges that YouTube knows children use its main service, in part because of the creation of YouTube Kids in 2015, which established a home for the kid-friendly content already on the platform.

It also said it offered the YouTube Kids app "specifically designed for children". The FTC expanded the Act in 2012. She said the FTC already has brought more than two dozen cases for violations of the 1998 law.

"Children are watching this content by themselves". The allegations suggest that the video hosting site is data collecting on children under 13 which is against U.S. law.

Denise Tayloe, CEO of COPPA consulting firm Privo, thinks the timing of the complaint could be tied to a the new European privacy regulations (GDPR) that go into effect next month.

But that model isn't supposed to work for USA children, who are protected by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Elizabeth Galicia is with Common Sense Kids Action, one of the 23 groups that drafted the complaint.

Google claims that it has already ensured child protection by providing the service "YouTube Kids".

Plus, advertisers can target kids' programming through the "Parenting and Family" lineup in the Google Preferred ads platform, the complaint states.