Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Economy | By Melissa Porter

YouTube illegally collecting data on children, claim protection groups

A coalition of over 20 consumer advocacy groups in the United States was expected to file a complaint with federal officials yesterday, saying YouTube has been violating a children's privacy law. YouTube has not confirmed that such a version of the app is in development, but stated that "we are always working to update and improve YouTube Kids". This information included location, phone numbers, and device identifiers.

But that model isn't supposed to work for United States children, who are protected by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The coalition says otherwise, articulating that the age check only applies to creating an account, and that Google is aware that kids 13 years and younger are using the main site, where data may be collected. A Google spokesperson told CNN that YouTube Kids complies with COPPA and doesn't accumulate data for ad-targeting. YouTube Kids curation process ensures that only videos tagged appropriate for kids are allowed on the app; but parents might have different opinion about unnecessary repetition.

The child advocacy groups want the federal agency to launch an investigation into the matter and sanction the company if found at fault.

The groups comprise of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Center for Digital Democracy and 21 other organizations.

Why has the group complained?

The complaint reportedly says that these violations should be met with fines "totaling tens of billions of dollars".

Californian media reported that Aghdam's family had warned the authorities that she might target YouTube prior to the shooting.

"We take enforcement of COPPA very seriously and have brought more than two dozen COPPA cases since the COPPA rule was enacted", she said. It has settled child privacy cases with Yelp, mobile advertising network inMobi and electronic toy-maker VTech.

Earlier, many parents were upset with the fact that conspiracy theory videos about the moon landing hoax and the flat Earth theory, alongside other inappropriate videos, started appearing on the Kids app. This channel even offers personality-driven programs that focus on preteens, notes the Associated Press.

The group alleges that YouTube has been collecting personal details and browser tracking data from children who viewed videos on the site.

However, Google has been criticised for using algorithms to curate the app's content.

Consumer advocates say Google knows what it is doing.

Google said the YouTube website is designed for people aged 13 and over, and people should be at least 13 years old to register an account.

Do you think this could land Google in serious bother?

If the FTC does find that YouTube violated COPPA, it could force it to add an age gate - a screen that asks viewers if they're over 13.

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