By Nadia Dreid, LAW 360
July 8, 2019
Advocates who take issue with YouTube content that targets children warned the Federal Trade Commission a resolution that shifts the burden of opting out of targeted advertising to content creators won't cut it.
Child advocacy, consumer and privacy groups Consumer Watchdog, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy followed up with the FTC Wednesday to express their concerns about such a remedy.
“Specifically, we are concerned about any remedy that would allow children’s content to remain on the main YouTube site and shift the burden of responsibility to content creators to opt out of ‘interest-based’ advertising,” the groups said in a letter to the agency, following up on another letter sent the week before.
The groups believe YouTube is in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by hosting content that features and targets children as an audience in order to collect their data, despite being a platform meant for those age 13 or above.
YouTube can’t rely on content creators to tag their videos as geared toward children so the video platform and Google could, in theory, stop collecting information from viewers of that content, they said. It’s a system that trusts content creators to comply in order to protect children’s privacy, the groups said.
They lodged a complaint against YouTube and its parent company Google LLC in April 2018, urging the FTC to probe whether the tech companies were in violation of COPPA. The Washington Post reported in June that the agency had opened up such an investigation into whether YouTube had been improperly collecting children’s data, but the FTC has refused to confirm or deny whether the probe exists.
Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., has welcomed the possibility of an FTC investigation, saying after the news broke that it was about time the agency took a harder look at whether YouTube is doing enough to protect its youngest users.
Representatives for Google and YouTube did not return a request for comment.
--Additional reporting by Sophia Morris. Editing by Amy Rowe.