Consumer Groups File FTC Complaint Against YouTube For Collecting Kids’ Personal data Without Parental Consent

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Consumer Groups File FTC Complaint Against YouTube For Collecting Kids’ Personal data Without Parental Consent

23 consumer watchdog groups say Google is not making any effort to comply with COPPA.


April 9, 2018

A coalition of 23 consumer groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission charging YouTube with violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data on children without parental consent. YouTube is owned by Google.

The complaint was co-filed Monday by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy.

The groups say that Google doesn’t even make an effort to try to comply with COPPA.

From the CCFC post announcing what it is calling a “landmark complaint”:

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, is the only federal law regulating how to handle kids’ online data, and its demands are relatively straightforward: if you run a site for kids, or if you know kids are using your site, you need to a) tell their parents exactly what kind of personal data you collect, and b) get verifiable parental permission before you gather any information from or about kids. There’s other stuff, too, but those are the basic requirements, and Google doesn’t even try to meet them. Instead, their privacy policy says that YouTube isn’t for children under 13, and that kids shouldn’t use it.

But actions and ad contracts speak louder than fine-printed privacy policies. YouTube is one of the most popular kids’ website in the world, and they know it. Eighty percent of American 6 – 12 year olds use YouTube, and in 2017, it was the most recognizable brand among kids 6 – 12. Many of YouTube’s most successful channels feature nursery rhyme videos, cartoons, toy ads, and other content designed to capture young children’s attention. YouTube provides how-to guides for creators making videos for kids. Google even runs a program called Google Preferred that lets advertisers pay extra money to get their ads onto the most popular kid-directed channels, like Ryan Toy Review and ChuChuTV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs.

In short: Despite the presence of literally millions of child-directed videos, and despite promising advertisers access to kids via YouTube ads, Google pretends that they aren’t responsible for the children on YouTube. Google knows kids are there, and they are not taking steps to protect their privacy. So we are.

The groups say that YouTube is making “untold amounts of money” from the use of “billions of data points from millions of children.”

The coalition includes The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Berkeley Media Studies Group, Center for Media Justice, Common Sense, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Federation of California, Consumers Union (the advocacy division of Consumer Reports), Corporate Accountability, Consumer Watchdog, Defending the Early Years, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), New Dream, Obligation, Inc., Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Parents Across America, Parents Television Council, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Public Citizen, The Story of Stuff Project, TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Childhood Entertainment) and US PIRG (US Public Interest Group).

Last year, YouTube was called out by advertisers who pulled millions of dollars in advertising to protest risks to brand safety on the platform. YouTube made several changes in response to that backlash, including putting stricter limits on Channels that are able to carry ads.

This action comes in the wake of increased scrutiny of how huge platforms like Google and Facebook are handling data. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to address the US Congress on how Facebook handles its data this week.


Robin Kurzer started her career as a daily newspaper reporter in Milford, Connecticut. She then made her mark on the advertising and marketing world in Chicago at agencies such as Tribal DDB and Razorfish, creating award-winning work for many major brands. For the past seven years, she’s worked as a freelance writer and communications professional across a variety of business sectors.

Consumer Watchdog
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