11 May 2018
A number of Child, consumer and privacy advocacy groups have filed a complaint against YouTube, stating that it is illegally collecting data on its underage viewers. They have asked Google’s YouTube to change how it handles content for children as well as pay a fine of billions of dollars for allegedly profiting off children.
The complaint has been filed by more than 20 advocacy groups and has asked the FTC to investigate Youtube for violating the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which limits how a company can collect data for kids under 13 years of age. Under the law, companies have to notify parents and ask for their consent before collecting the data on children.
The group claims that YouTube is the most popular online platform for children in the US, and is used by nearly 80% of children between the ages of six to 12 years old. The company has also launched YouTube Kids, which is a dedicated app for kids that shows age-appropriate content and ads. The company recently hired thousands of moderators to review content on YouTube after receiving criticism for the spread of violent and offensive content which is disturbing for children.
"Google has made substantial profits from the collection and use of personal data from children on YouTube. Its illegal collection has been going on for many years and involves tens of millions of US children," reads the complaint, which was led by the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Katie McInnis, policy counsel for the Consumers Union, said: “YouTube knows children are watching content on their site, and has created content channels specifically aimed at them, but does not appear to obtain the required parental consent before collecting information about them.” “Google has the responsibility to be Coppa-compliant and ensure that children can safely watch the programs designed and promoted for kids. These practices present serious concerns that warrant the FTC’s attention.”
"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," a Google spokesperson stated. "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."