Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Economy | By

YouTube Targeting Kids With Harvested Data, Complaint Says

YouTube Targeting Kids With Harvested Data, Complaint Says

The group alleges that YouTube has been collecting personal details and browser tracking data from children who viewed videos on the site.

They claim YouTube is violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA which bans internet companies from collecting personal information from kids younger than the age of 13 without their parent's consent. The privacy groups want the Google-owned company to change the way it handles children's data and also pay billions of dollars in fines.

The head of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Josh Golin told The Guardian that Google has been claiming that YouTube is a service for those aged 13 or older even though the website is "rife with popular cartoons, nursery rhymes, and toy ads".

FTC spokeswoman Juliana Gruenwald Henderson said in an email that the agency hasn't yet received the letter but looks forward to reviewing it.

YouTube, which says the site is meant for users 13 years or older, has come under plenty of controversy for what it shows to minors.

"Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy", Jeff Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy said. Age-gating the registration process this doesn't shield YouTube from COPPA requirements, because it requires registration to post videos - not to watch them, the complaint argues.

COPPA, first passed in 1998, prevents companies from gathering data about children, such as their location or contact information, without first obtaining parental consent.

YouTube is under fire for allegedly profiting off young viewers.

It also said it offered the YouTube Kids app "specifically designed for children".

"YouTube also has actual knowledge that many children are on YouTube, as evidenced by disclosures from content providers, public statements by YouTube executives, and the creation of the YouTube Kids app".

Music video service Vevo has confirmed its YouTube page suffered a security breach, after some of the video-sharing site's most popular videos were doctored by hackers.

Advocates say Google knows what it is doing. While algorithms might be effective when it comes to producing an unending list of clips for keeping the children busy, they may not be able to separate between the safe and unsafe content, this is one thing that still gives humans an edge over robots.

While Google doesn't let advertisers select age groups under 18, the complaint says there are still a number of ways to target ads at children, like select keywords related to kids such as "toddler" and "toy".

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

The complaint arrives at a time when there's a heightened awareness and concern over the data collection and data privacy practices of major tech companies in the USA, as well as how those systems can be compromised by foreign governments.

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