YouTube illegally mining viewing data from young children, advocacy groups claim

Google is illegally collecting data from children via YouTube app, according to an alliance of child advocacy groups.

CNN Tech reports the groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission in the United States to investigate whether Google violated the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), designed to protect against collection of minors’ data online.

Google is accused of making ‘substantial profits’ from the collection of data from 23 million kids under 13, which, if proved, could cost the company billions of dollars in fines.

“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 US children,” the complaint reads.

Related: How to review your Facebook privacy settings 

The Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood are leading the efforts and wants Google to clean up its act and pay the massive fines.

In a statement Google told CNN: “Protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us. We 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.”

The coalition of advocacy groups say the illegal data collection pertains to the main YouTube service rather than the specialised Kids app, which is exclusively tailored to children and does not collect data according to Google.

The firm says that app “does not allow interest-based advertising or re-marketing.”

According to the groups, because kids are using the main site without an account, children under 13 are exposed to the same data collection practices as adults.

The complaint referenced the large number of cartoons, nursery rhyme videos and toy unboxing videos. The advocacy groups say tracking of these videos would require parental consent and notification.

The FTC says it hasn’t received the complaint yet, but is looking “forward to reviewing it”.

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