In a complaint filed Monday, 20 advocacy groups asked the FTC to investigate the Google subsidiary for violating the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which limits how a company can collect data about kids under 13. Under the law, companies have to notify parents and get their consent before collecting data on children.
“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,” reads the complaint, which was led by the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
YouTube’s terms of service say it is not for anyone under 13. To sign up for a Google account, which is used to log into YouTube, a person must say they are older than 13.
But anyone can watch YouTube videos without an account or logging in. Parents can let their children use their accounts, or kids can lie and claim to be older when creating an account. According to Trendera research, 45% of kids between 8- and 12-years-old have a YouTube Account.
Kid-focused channels can have huge subscriber bases and make significant amounts of money on ads.
LittleBabyBum churns out animated nursery rhymes. It has 14 million subscribers and its videos have been viewed more than 16 billion times. Ryan ToysReview, which features a 6-year-old kid testing toys, made $11 million in ad revenue in one year.
While Google doesn’t let advertisers select age groups under 18, the complaint says there are still a number of ways to target ads at children, like select keywords related to kids such as “toddler” and “toy.”
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