YouTube is once again in the limelight, but for all the wrong reasons. After a rough start to 2018 marked by brand safety issues, the Google-owned platform is now being accused of collecting data on children’s viewing patterns — a violation of a federal law. A coalition of 23 advocacy groups brought forth the accusation in a complaint filed today with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The groups, which include Common Sense Media, and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, have called on the FTC to “investigate and sanction” Google for YouTube’s alleged violations of the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
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Why it matters
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was created to place parents in control over what information is collected from their young children online. The Rule was designed to protect children under age 13 while accounting for the dynamic nature of the Internet. A violation of this rule could result in billions of dollars of penalties on Google.
YouTube has stated that it “will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things [it] can do to improve. Because YouTube is not for children, we’ve invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children.”
While Google state’s in YouTube’s terms and conditions: If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the service,” the terms say. “There are lots of other great web sites for you. The platform is stocked with content that directly targets children under the age of 13.
The ending result of this situation could have larger implications on the overall streaming industry. For many streamers including Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and the upcoming Disney-branded streaming service, children are a large part of their audience. It will not come as a surprise if similar investigations arise.