Another day, another data breach. This time it’s YouTube in the hot seat for allegedly collecting data on kids. Per a 59-page complaint filed with the US Federal Trade Commission, 23 child advocacy, consumer and privacy groups have accused Google (who owns YouTube) of violating child protection laws by collecting personal data of and advertising children under the age of 13.
According to the coalition, which includes groups such as the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), YouTube turns a blind eye to the fact that it has users under the age of 13, even though the platform is only meant for those 13 and above. As a result, Google is collecting data on these underage users, including their location and phone numbers. This behavior stands in direct violation of the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa), which requires parental consent before collecting such data.
The coalition is calling on the FTC to investigate Google and sanction the company. Josh Golin, executive director of the CCFC, claims “Google profits immensely by delivering ads to kids and must comply with Coppa. It’s time for the FTC to hold Google accountable for its illegal data collection and advertising practices.” According to the group, 80% of kids aged six to 12 years old use the online platform, making it the most popular one amongst American children.
It’s worth mentioning that Google has taken to make content kid-safe, like creating a YouTube app for kids and hiring thousands of moderators to sweep for offensive content on their platform. However, the coalition is not impressed, pointing out that such steps do not excuse the fact that the platform is monetizing the personal data of children. “Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy,” said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for YouTube said that while the company has not received 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.”