YouTube unlawfully violates kids privacy, new $3.2B lawsuit claims

Enlarge / A sign featuring the YouTube logo, outside the YouTube Space studios in London on June 4, 2019. Olly Curtis | Future | Getty Images

A new lawsuit filed in a United Kingdom court alleges that YouTube knowingly violated children's privacy laws in that country and seeks damages in excess of £2.5 billion (about $3.2 billion).

A tech researcher named Duncan McCann filed the lawsuit in the UK's High Court and is serving as representative claimant in the case—a similar, though not identical, process to a US class-action suit. Foxglove, a UK tech advocacy group, is backing the claim, it said today.

"YouTube, and its parent company Google, are ignoring laws designed to protect children," Foxglove wrote in a press release. "They know full well that millions of children watch YouTube. Theyre making money from unlawfully harvesting data about these young children as they watch YouTube videos—and then running highly targeted adverts, designed to influence vulnerable young minds."

A spokesperson for Google told Bloomberg News that YouTube is not intended for users under the age of 13. "We launched the YouTube Kids app as a dedicated destination for kids and are always working to better protect kids and families on YouTube," the company told Bloomberg.

Spotty track record

That argument, however, has not saved YouTube from landing in hot water over underage users on this side of the Atlantic.

Last year, Google and the Federal Trade Commission reached a $170 million settlement over allegations that it violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

COPPA, one of the few federal laws dealing with digital privacy in the US, imposes certain restrictions on the collection and use of personal data associated with children ages 12 and under. Under the law, websites, apps, and digital platforms that collect data from children under 13 are required to post a privacy policy and have parents consent to it, to give parents the option to opt out of having their children's information shared with third parties, to let parents review their children's data, and to follow sound data storage and retention policies.

You don't have to be logged in or registered in order to view most videos on YouTube, so there's no age-gating. Anyone can view videos, including kids. YouTube boasted to toy companies Mattel and Hasbro that "YouTube was unanimously voted as the favorite website for kids 2-12" and "93% of tweens visit YouTube to watch videos," according to the FTC's complaint.

While Google's left hand boasted to toymakers about how many kids viewed its content, the company's right hand said the opposite. According to an email obtained by the FTC, one Google employee wrote, "we dont have users that are below 13 on YouTube and platform/site is general audience, so there is no channel/content that is child-directed and no COPPA compliance is needed."

Same problem, different law

The UK lawsuit points to those same claims YouTube made to Mattel and Hasbro and pairs them with a UK goveRead More – Source