Does your kid watch YouTube? If so, the site is illegally collecting their data, privacy groups argue.
YouTube does not ask parents for consent to collect children’s data, according to a complaint from 22 groups.
“Kids have been watching videos on YouTube for years, something the company has known, and profited off of, by targeting content and ads at children under 13,” James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense, said in a statement.
Common Sense and other groups claim the unwarranted data collection violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). They filed a formal complaint with the FTC, asking the agency to investigate.
In response, Google said: “YouTube is not for children.”
“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,” it added.
YouTube’s terms of service state that YouTube is meant only for people aged 13 and over. For those under 13, Google offers YouTube Kids, an app that asks children to activate the service with the help of a parent.
Nevertheless, the main YouTube platform remains the go-to video streaming service for children, according to the privacy and consumer advocacy groups. YouTube also hosts numerous children-themed videos and channels that routinely attract thousands or millions of views, they add.
“There is no reason to think that YouTube treats information collected from children any differently than that collected from other users,” they said in their complaint to the FTC.
Google has explicitly banned ad-targeting and data collection directed at children. But the privacy groups claim advertisers can still target young children on YouTube by gaming Google’s ad system. To punish the internet giant, the groups are calling on the FTC to fine the company “tens of billions of dollars.”
The FTC confirmed it has received the complaint, but declined to offer further comment. It can fine offenders $41,484 per COPPA violation.
On YouTube Kids, meanwhile, an updated version of the app will axe algorithmically selected videos in favor of manually selected content, according to BuzzFeed.