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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

YouTube illegally tracks data on kids, groups claim in FTC complaint

By Todd Spangler, | Apr 09, 2018

LOS ANGELES - Google’s YouTube for years has been collecting data on children’s viewing patterns -- in violation of a federal law -- a coalition of 23 advocacy groups alleged in a complaint filed Monday with the FTC.

YouTube said it has not received the complain but said it will “read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we 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,” a YouTube rep said in a statement.

The groups, which include the Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense Media, and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, urged the FTC to “investigate and sanction” Google for YouTube’s alleged violations of the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The advocacy groups -- which claimed Google makes huge profits from improperly selling ads using data to target children -- also urged the FTC to levy fines on Google that “could total in the billions of dollars.”

“For years, Google has abdicated its responsibility to kids and families by disingenuously claiming YouTube -- a site rife with popular cartoons, nursery rhymes, and toy ads -- is not for children under 13,” CCFC executive director Josh Golin said in a statement. “It’s time for the FTC to hold Google accountable for its illegal data collection and advertising practices.”

The FTC has not commented on the complaint.

The Google Preferred which includes a “Parenting and Family” lineup comprised mostly of popular channels targeted to children. The advocacy groups specifically singled out kid-targeted channels such as ChuChuTV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs (which has 15.9 million subscribers and over 10 billion channel views) and LittleBabyBum (14.6 million subscribers, more than 14 billion views).

The FTC complaint against Google was drafted by the Georgetown University Law Center’s Communications & Technology Law Clinic in the Institute for Public Representation.

Groups signing on to the complaint to the FTC along with CDD and CCFC are: Berkeley Media Studies Group; Center for Media Justice; Common Sense Media; Consumer Action; Consumer Federation of America; and others.

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