On Monday, April 9, 2018, some twenty digital rights associations filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States. They accuse Google of illegally collecting personal data about children via the YouTube platform and using it for targeted advertising.
As Facebook falters following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it is YouTube’s turn to enter the slippery slope of personal data management: 23 digital rights and child protection associations accuse the video platform of exploiting children’s personal data for commercial purposes. “Google collects information without first informing parents and uses it to target ads to children all over the Internet,” says the release released on Monday, April 9, 2018, addressed to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which may decide to open an investigation.
According to these American associations, Google, YouTube’s parent company, collects children’s data even though it is forbidden to have a YouTube account before the age of 13. “For years, Google has abandoned its responsibility to children and families by misleadingly stating that YouTube – a site flooded with cartoons, nursery rhymes, and toy ads – is not for children under 13,” said Josh Golin, director of the signatory Campaign for a Commercial-Free Child Hood.
Youtube prohibited to under 13s
The complaint accuses YouTube of hypocrisy. Even if the platform is “reserved for users over thirteen, some content targets young children,” complainants develop. “Research shows that over 80% of children aged 4 to 8 are on YouTube.” According to a Trendera study, 45% of children aged 8 to 12 have a YouTube account. However, remember that it is not necessary to have an account to view a video on the platform and that a young user can very easily lie about his birth date to open one.
By filing a complaint, the associations say they want to “help parents and children make intelligent decisions when they are online. So that when they connect, they don’t have to worry about ads and have their credentials and data accumulated over the long term.
What is the law saying?
A law is quoted several times in the press release: “Google makes huge profits with children’s ads and must comply with COPPA.” The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed in 1998 and came into force in April 2000. It prohibits the online collection of personal information about children under the age of 13 without the verifiable consent of either parent.
Until 2013, COPPA applied only to websites. Since then, it has also concerned online games and applications, which are widely used by children on smartphones and tablets. This modification made it possible in particular to regulate the collection of information through plugins.
What does Youtube and Google say?
Google has assured, through its spokesperson, that the protection of children and families is “a priority.” “Because YouTube is not for children, we have invested heavily in creating the YouTube Kids application, which offers an alternative specifically for children,” insisted the Mountain View giant.