A group of over 20 consumers of child safety and privacy advocacy groups has accused YouTube of breaching child protection laws within the US.
The group has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claiming that YouTube gathers data (location data, device types, mobile phone numbers and browsing habits) of children aged under 13 to use for targeted advertising.
YouTube states that its service is for children over the age of thirteen, but it is suggested (by the group) that the website is most popular in the US with children between the ages 6-12 years.
The group state the following:
“The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, is the only federal law regulating how to handle kids’ online data, and its demands are relatively straightforward: if you run a site for kids, or if you know kids are using your site, you need to a) tell their parents exactly what kind of personal data you collect, and b) get verifiable parental permission before you gather any information from or about kids.”
“YouTube is one of the most popular kids’ websites in the world, and they know it. Eighty percent of American 6 – 12-year olds use YouTube, and in 2017, it was the most recognizable brand among kids 6 – 12. Many of YouTube’s most successful channels feature nursery rhyme videos, cartoons, toy ads, and other content designed to capture young children’s attention. YouTube provides how-to guides for creators making videos for kids. Google even runs a program called Google Preferred that lets advertisers pay extra money to get their ads onto the most popular kid-directed channels.”
Websites run for children must inform parents if they collect personal data and must seek parental permission before tracking data about children.
Google state the following:
“Because YouTube is not for children, we’ve invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children.”
However, there have been complaints that inappropriate content repeatedly emerges on the Kids app that was specifically designed for children under the age of 13.
The group state that:
“Google has acted duplicitously by falsely claiming in its terms of service that YouTube is only for those who are age 13 or older, while it deliberately lured young people into an ad-filled digital playground.”
“Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy.”
Google has said that protecting children and families was a top priority and that they will evaluate if there are things that they can do to improve.