Advocacy groups accuse YouTube of collecting private data from children

The coalition of child advocacy and digital privacy groups say YouTube and Google knowingly collect data on children without parental consent. File photo by Sascha Steinbach/EPA-EFE

April 10 (UPI) — A coalition of child advocacy and online privacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Monday accusing YouTube of collecting personal data on children under the age of 13.

The coalition, headed by The Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said YouTube, which is owned by Google, knowingly collects the data via children’s mobile devices without verifying parental consent, as required under the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

“A recent study found that 80 percent of U.S. children ages 6 to 12 use YouTube daily. Google has actual knowledge that children under age 13 are using YouTube. Google nonetheless collects and uses personal information from all YouTube users, including children under the age of 13, without giving notice or obtaining advanced, verifiable parental consent as required by COPPA,” the complaint states.

YouTube’s user policy states that it is intended for users ages 13 and above and Google says it doesn’t allow advertisers to target users under the age of 18.

But the coalition says that Google allows advertisers to get around this by targeting key words aimed at children.

“Advertisers can target children by using keywords such as ‘kid,’ ‘child,’ ‘toddler,’ ‘baby’ or ‘toy.’ AdWords will even suggest keywords such as ‘barbie doll dream house,'” the complaint states.

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 inform parents that data is being collected.

The coalition requests that the FTC conduct an investigation into YouTube’s practices regarding child data collection and be charged a civil penalty.

“Google has not only made a vast amount of money by using children’s personal information as part of its ad networks to target advertising, but has also profited from advertising revenues from ads on its YouTube channels that are watched by children,” the groups said.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said the company will review the complaint.

“Protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us. We will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we can do to improve,” the spokesperson said.


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