YouTube accused of violating kids' privacy

NEW YORK • A coalition of over 20 consumer advocacy groups in the US was expected to file a complaint with federal officials yesterday, saying YouTube has been violating a children's privacy law.

The complaint contends that YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, has been collecting and profiting from the personal data of young children on its main site, although the firm says the platform is meant only for users aged 13 and older.

The coalition said YouTube failed to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law that requires firms to get parental consent before collecting data on children younger than 13. The groups are asking for a probe and penalties from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which enforces the law.

"Google has been continually growing its child-directed service in the United States and all over the world without any kind of acknowledgement of this law and its responsibilities," said Mr Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Centre for Digital Democracy, one of the groups leading the coalition.

YouTube defines its main site and app as destinations for viewers aged 13 and older. It directs younger children to the stand-alone YouTube Kids app, which contains a filtered set of videos from the main site. The distinction between its main product and YouTube Kids is significant because of the rules on disclosure and parental consent that kick in for sites with "actual knowledge" that they are trafficking in the personal data of children under 13.

Those rules were first detailed in the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. The FTC expanded the Act in 2012. The revised rules made clear that firms must get parental consent before collecting data that could be used to identify, contact or locate a child.

As YouTube's popularity has surged, it has faced issues related to content geared to children, from inappropriate videos on its YouTube Kids app to deceptive advertising.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'YouTube accused of violating kids' privacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe