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Child Protection Groups Accuse YouTube of Illegally Collecting Data on Minors

The fact that YouTube and other such online platforms collect user data for advertising purposes is no surprise to anyone at this point. We have come to expect it, and in most cases even agree that it is necessary to some extent if these platforms are to survive and continue to be free for users. Where the issue becomes decidedly hazier however is when it applies to children.

According to a coalition of 23 child advocacy, consumer and privacy groups which includes notable organisations such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy, YouTube have been knowingly collecting the data of users under the age of 13 in what they allege is a direct violation of child protection laws. The coalition has filed a formal complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission outlining their case, in which they assert that despite Google’s claims that the YouTube platform is restricted to those aged 13 and above, they are fully aware that underage individuals are bypassing these poorly-enforced restrictions and proceed in gathering their data regardless. This data allegedly includes information relating to the user’s location, device identifiers, and even phone numbers, tracking them across different websites, apps and services without prior parental consent. If true, this would indeed be a violation of the terms set out by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

According to Josh Golin, Executive Director of the CCFC, one need look no further than YouTube’s own content for evidence of this nefarious practice.

“For years, Google has abdicated its responsibility to kids and families by disingenuously claiming that YouTube - a site rife with popular cartoons, nursery rhymes, and toy ads - is not for children under 13,” said Mr Golin. “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.”

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy joined Mr Golin in vocalising his criticism of the platform.

“Google has acted duplicitously by falsely claiming in its terms of service that YouTube is only for those who are age 13 or older, while it deliberately lured young people into an ad-filled digital playground,” states Mr Chester.

“Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy.”

A YouTube spokesperson did respond to the allegations, though their response offered little in the way of accountability or insight.

“While we haven’t received the complaint, protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us,” YouTube state. “We will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we can do to improve. 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.”

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working as Editor of Social Songbird, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @Songbird_Sam

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Child Protection Groups Accuse YouTube of Illegally Collecting Data on Minors Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, April 13, 2018 Rating: 5

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