Advocacy Groups Say YouTube Illegally Collects Data on Kids

Javier Stokes
April 11, 2018

But the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) bans Internet companies from collecting personal data from kids younger than 13 without their parents' consent.

YouTube's terms of service restrict those under 13 years of age from using the platform.

A woman identified by police as the attacker who wounded three people at YouTube's headquarters in California was a vegan blogger who accused the video-sharing service of discriminating against her, according to her online profile. Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the leader of the coalition, commented to the NYT that YouTube is "actively packaging under-13 content for advertisers". Some of the platform's most popular channels are catered to young children, such as ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs, which has almost 16 million subscribers an over 10 billion channel views.

The complaint referenced the large number of cartoons, nursery rhyme videos and toy unboxing videos.

It also said it offered the YouTube Kids app "specifically designed for children". It has a separate platform, YouTube Kids, for family-friendly content.

In a statement, YouTube said, "We are reviewing the complaint and will evaluate if there are things we can do to improve. protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us".

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The combination of the poor data privacy practices across social media, abuse of social media platforms by foreign actors, YouTube's misbehaving algorithms, and its other missteps with regard to its approach with children, may have this complaint taken more seriously than those in the past. "Google profits immensely by delivering ads to kids and must comply with COPPA [the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act]".

Young YouTube watchers might be surprised to learn they aren't old enough to use the video-playing website.

The groups made up of child, consumer and privacy coalitions claim YouTube illegally collected data on 23 million children over an undisclosed amount of time. "Its illegal collection has been going on for many years and involves tens of millions of USA children".

This has more to do with granting parents power to block or choose what they would rather have their kids see when they use the app than inappropriate video.

The complaint calls for the FTC to impose civil penalties totaling tens of billions of dollars for Google's alleged violations. And the complaint says that's a big no-no under COPPA because YouTube doesn't require parental consent before collecting that data. In the complaint they are filing with the FTC, the advocacy groups cite nursery rhyme compilations, toy unboxing videos, and other content that is both heavily viewed on YouTube and clearly intended for small children.

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