YouTube may be illegally collecting kids' data

YouTube Kids

According to several child advocacy groups the Google-owned You Tube is secretly harvesting data on kids and using that data for advertising purposes

The allegations were levelled by a legion of 23 child advocacy, consumer and privacy groups who have registered a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stating the video streaming company had been collecting data for advertising purposes.

As YouTube tries to make its site safer for children, almost two dozen child advocacy and privacy groups have launched a complaint, alleging that Google is illegally collecting the personal data of users under 13 years old. It asks the the FTC to fine YouTube up to $41,484 per violation, which would add up to billions.

"We are reviewing the complaint and will evaluate if there are things we can do to improve", a Google spokeswoman said Monday. Under the law, companies have to notify parents and get their consent before collecting data on children. Several other groups have signed on, including Common Sense Media, which runs a popular website for families, and the advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

"The challenge is YouTube has been tracking the devices that people use to view their content", said Bob O'Donnell of Technalysis Research.

YouTube is being accused of breaking a federal law created to protect children's privacy online.

YouTube stands to reap 45% of those ad revenues, earning an estimated $5 million from just one of its many kid-targeted channels, the complaint argues.

It also said it offered the YouTube Kids app "specifically designed for children".

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Police said they were still investigating possible motives but Aghdam's online activities show that she believed YouTube was deliberately obstructing her videos from being viewed.

Amanda Chaon, a Senior Digital Media Strategist at Click Rain, says YouTube and other sites like it need to be more upfront about their policies involving personal information.

The complaint alleges that the Google-owned video-sharing site improperly collected data on children who used its service without first informing parents and obtaining their consent. This large demographic recently prompted Google to introduce a dedicated service catering to younger viewers called YouTube Kids; asserting that its main platform is only for those aged 13 and above.

But anyone can watch YouTube videos without an account or logging in. They also cite that some of the most popular channels on YouTube are those directed at children and so Google has the responsibility to be Coppa-compliant. It has a separate platform, YouTube Kids, for family-friendly content.

The Partner Categories platform is powered by third-party data providers such as Epsilon, Acxiom, Experian, and helps the clients to target Facebook users for the promotion of their products.

Some suggest that the onus is on parents who are violating YouTube's ToS by allowing their kids under 13 to use the site.

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