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YouTube faces new UK lawsuit over children’s privacy

One year after agreeing to pay US$170 million to the US FTC and New York Attorney General, the Google-owned platform is facing new claims that it tracks children under 13 across the pond.
September 14, 2020

YouTube is facing another big lawsuit over its alleged tracking of children under age 13—this time in the UK.

London-based Hausfeld & Co LLP is seeking more than US$2.5 billion in damages to be dispersed among the five million British children and parents who have access to the platform. It alleges that YouTube is tracking kids under 13 years old, and that those children deserve compensation. The lawsuit also alleges that YouTube “routinely” breaks the UK Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The claim was brought to the UK High Court on behalf of kids whose data was allegedly obtained without parental consent. According to the legal action, the platform has no practical user age requirements and “makes no adequate attempt to limit usage age by youngsters.”

A YouTube spokesperson said it doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation, but that “YouTube is not for children 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.”

YouTube faced a similar legal proceedings in the US, reaching an agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General to pay a record US$170-million fine to settle allegations that it was illegally collecting personal information from children without parental consent, according to the FTC.

The FTC ruled that even though YouTube is a general-audience site, some of its individual channels are child-directed and must comply with COPPA regulations. In addition to the monetary penalty, the settlement required YouTube to develop, implement and maintain a system that allows channel owners to identify themselves as making child-directed content.

To combat some of these issues, YouTube Kids launched a website. The broader YouTube platform, meanwhile, began treating data from anyone watching kids content on its site as if a child were consuming it—regardless of the age of the user. It also ended the practice of personalized ads on content made for kids.

YouTube later asked the FTC to loosen and clarify its restrictions, but no movement has been made on that request to date.

Meanwhile, with millions of people around the world in a state of lockdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, YouTube viewership has soared this year, according to Aux Mode.

About The Author
Alexandra Whyte is Kidscreen's News & Social Media Editor. Contact her at awhyte@brunico.com

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