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Coalition claims YouTube violates child privacy laws

[JURIST] A coalition of 23 consumer, child safety and privacy advocacy groups filed a complaint [text, PDF] Monday with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] alleging that YouTube violated children's privacy laws by collecting and selling data from children under the age of 13.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) [FTC website] "makes it unlawful for any operator of a website or online service that is directed to children from collecting, using or disclosing personal information from a child unless the operator gives parents notice of its data collection practices and obtains verifiable parental consent before collecting data."

YouTube, owned by Google, is the most popular online platform among children. A 2017 study found that 80 percent of US children ages 6-12 use YouTube daily. The complaint claims that YouTube has actual knowledge that children are using the site, "as evidenced by disclosures from content providers, public statements by YouTube executives, and the creation of the YouTube Kids app."

While Youtube does not allow users under aged 13 to create an account, Youtube cannot take advantage of the "age gate" exception because "although it requires registration to post videos, it does not require registration to watch videos on YouTube."

The viral video site's policy states that it collects telephone numbers, geolocation, and persistent identifiers, and "may collect and process information about your actual location using various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors

The parties request that the FTC enjoin Google from committing further violations of the COPPA, impose effective means for monitoring compliance, and assess civil penalties that demonstrate that the FTC will not permit violations of COPPA.

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