Another issue about an illegal collection of data arises just weeks after Facebook faced the Congress for a similar complaint. This time, however, Youtube is under allegations due to an illicit collection of data and advertising among kids 13 years old and below.
23 groups that focus on child advocacy, consumers and privacy merged for a mutual cause: to protect children from Youtube and its misdoings. According to the organizations, Google is violating the child protection law. Thus, with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the groups filed a complaint against the company.
Included in the 23 groups is the Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). The complainants allege that although Google claims that Youtube is only for users 13 and above, they still allow kids under 13 to use the site. According to the groups, the tube site is collecting personal data from users under 13 years of age such as the users’ location, type of device used, and phone numbers. Google uses the information across different websites and networks without the consent of parents, which is mandatory according to the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA.
The complainants encourage US FTC to investigate and come up with apt sanctions for Youtube’s violations.
According to Josh Golin, executive director of the CCFC in a statement with The Guardian, “For years, Google has abdicated its responsibility to kids and families by disingenuously claiming YouTube — a site rife with popular cartoons, nursery rhymes, and toy ads — is not for children under 13.”
“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,” Golin adds.
According to the groups, Youtube is the most popular online platform among kids in the US, which is used by about 80 percent of children between ages 6 and 12. After receiving criticisms and negative feedbacks about the site’s violent and offensive content for children, Google made serious efforts to make amends. Google created a separate app for children called, Youtube Kids, released in 2015 to assure they deliver appropriate content and advertisements for young users. The company also improved its system by hiring thousands of moderators for the site to better refine its content after facing criticisms about its child abusive and disturbing content for children.
Despite Google’s significant efforts, the complainants believe it’s not enough. Based on a statement from Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy with The Guardian, “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.
“Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy.”
As a matter of fact, according to the groups, the Youtube channels with the most substantial number of viewers and followers focus on a children audience such as, ChuChuTV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs, which has 15.9 million subscribers and above 10 billion views. Another channel for kids is LittleBabyBum that has 14.6 million subscribers and 14 billion views. The complainants added that Youtube also preferred advertising platforms in the “parenting and family” bracket, where major advertisers pay premium fees for ads.
In the 59-page FTC complaint, it mentioned, “YouTube also has actual knowledge that many children are on the site, as evidenced by disclosures from content providers, public statements by YouTube executives, and the creation of the YouTube Kids app.”
Policy counsel for the Consumers Union, Katie McInnis, mentioned in a statement with The Guardian, “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.”
Chief executive of Common Sense, James P Steyer, also said in the statement, “It is time for Google to be completely transparent with all the facts and institute fundamentally responsible new policies moving forward to protect the privacy of kids. We fully expect Google to work closely with advocates and reach out to parents with information about parental controls, content and collection practices on YouTube so parents can make informed choices about what content they allow their kids to access and how to protect their privacy.”
As for the Youtube’s side, the company’s spokesperson responded in the statement saying, “While we haven’t 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. Because the tube site is not for children, we’ve invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children.”