COPPA load of this FTC complaint: YouTube accused of collecting children's data

Privacy groups allege vid-sharing site slaps trackers on under-13s


Two dozen consumer, digital and privacy rights groups have filed a new complaint with America's Federal Trade Commission, claiming that Google's YouTube service violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

COPPA requires operators like Alphabet's Google to give parents notice of its data collection. The law needs explicit personal consent for the use of under-13's data, and the FTC has dished out numerous fines against websites and advertising networks over the years. Most recently toy-maker VTech was fined for failing to fully disclose its data slurping.

In response many sites, including YouTube, simply state that children under 13 shouldn't be using it at all – in Google's case it asks up-to-twelves to go ask Mom to set up a Family Link account (which an adult can control). Meanwhile, Google promotes the dedicated YouTube Kids (YTK) service, which it launched in 2015. Ostensibly children's settings in the app are controlled via the Family Link account managed by an adult. YTK claims to host "curated" content and a simplified UX.

However, the public interest groups' new complaint homes in on the primary YouTube service – the one that children aren't supposed to be watching.

The groups, spearheaded by the Center for Digital Democracy, have long expressed concerns about the content aimed at young children.

The new complaint homes in on trackers, persistent identifiers, use of which on children's sites was regulated by the FTC in 2012. Trackers require parental consent, and then may only be used provide "support for the internal operations of the Web site or online service".

However, since this permits the service of "contextual advertising on the Website", YouTube may argue it's in the clear.

Profile-building, however, is strictly forbidden. See here for the definitions.

The groups who filed the complaint questioned why so much children's material is hosted on the main YouTube.com site when children under 13 shouldn't be there at all. You can read the full complaint here (PDF).

We requested YouTube's view on this but had not received a reply at publication time. It told other outlets: "We will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we can do to improve."

Children's viewing of the Disney and Nickelodeon cable channels among six- to 11-year-olds has fallen by over 50 per cent from 2008 to 2017, according to ratings data collator Nielsen.

Meanwhile, the complaint claimed that 243 million items are returned for the search "children's videos" on YouTube and said the second most popular channel is a toys reviewer with 12 million subscribers. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022