YouTube Accused of Data Collection on Children

Advocates say Google's advertising technologies make it possible for brands to target children on YouTube, using keywords such as "kid", "child," "toddler", "baby" or "toy", the complaint maintains.

Data privacy has become a major public issue since revelations of improper harvesting of Facebook data by the firm Cambridge Analytica last month. But so far, the site's efforts haven't stopped children from being targeted by those who are uploading conspiracy videos and other disturbing non-kid-friendly videos that feature Disney characters and other superheroes. Google's advertising service, Adwords, allows advertisers to take advantage of this lucrative demographic by using keywords like "kid", "child", or "toy".

Non-profit group Common Sense Media is a signer on the FTC complain. According to the CCFC, YouTube is used by 80% of US children in the 6-12 age bracket. The groups also says YouTube is the most popular online platform for children in the US and used by 80 percent of children aged 6-12. A quick glance at the YouTube Terms of Service does indeed demonstrate that the video service is stipulated as not for children.

The company said it had not received the group's complaint, but said protecting children and families was a "top priority". It directs younger children to the stand-alone YouTube Kids app, which contains a filtered set of videos from the main site.

If the FTC finds that YouTube broke COPPA, it could force the company to add a screen that asks viewers if they're over 13 (CNN). Under COPPA, companies have to notify parents and get their consent before collecting data on children such as personal and geolocation information, unique device identifiers and mobile telephone numbers.

YouTube attempts to comply with COPPA by making new users confirm they are at least 13 years old, but despite that check, content aimed at kids is prevalent across the video site.

This whitelisted version of the app will exist alongside the algorithmic version, and will be an option that parents can select, according to a source familiar with YouTube's plans.

The program includes a "Parenting & Family Lineup" that has featured channels such as ChuChu TV, Fox's BabyTV and Seven Super Girls, whose topics include "fluffy unicorn slime".

"It's laughable if Google execs claim that they think the parent is in charge of the online viewing behaviors of tens of millions of children", Chester said. Further, the survey found that 80% of American children aged 6 to 12 use the platform daily. "Google is trying to look the other way".

The coalition claims that about 80% of children in the U.S. ages 6 to 12 use YouTube, making it the most popular online platform for children.

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