More than 20 child advocacy groups have urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate YouTube, accusing the video-sharing platform of illegally collecting data from underage users.
The Guardian obtained court documents accusing the Google subsidiary of collecting children’s phone numbers and devices of so that they can track them on various websites and platforms. Under the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), companies are required to get a parent’s consent before gathering information from users younger than 13.
The complaint reportedly says that these violations should be met with fines “totaling tens of billions of dollars.”
“Google has made substantial profits from the collection and use of personal data from children on YouTube. Its illegal collection has been going on for many years and involves tens of millions of U.S. children,” the complaint reads.
While YouTube’s terms of service explicitly states that the website isn’t for anyone younger than 13, videos can be viewed without an account. Additionally, CNN noted that they’re no shortage of kid-friendly YouTubers boasting millions of subscribers.
While Google bars advertisers from marketing to people under 18, the complaint alleged that companies are knowingly targeting children by using keywords such as “toddler,” “toy,” “kid,” and “baby.”
In 2015, Google released YouTube Kids, a platform that shows kid-friendly content and ads. A Google spokesperson told CNN that YouTube Kids complies with COPPA and doesn’t accumulate data for ad-targeting.
Meanwhile, child consumer groups remain unconvinced.
“Google has acted duplicitously by falsely claiming in its terms of service that YouTube is only for those who are age 13 or older, while it deliberately lured young people into an ad-filled digital playground,” Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy told The Guardian.
“Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy.”
[Featured Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu]