Advocates call for massive fine and privacy restrictions on YouTube over children’s data tracking

Allegations have emerged that YouTube might have enabled companies to track children’s online data, raising concerns about federal privacy safeguards for minors.

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Children’s privacy advocates are intensifying their efforts as they urge federal regulators to impose a substantial fine, potentially in the tens of billions of dollars, and implement sweeping privacy limits on YouTube, owned by Google.

Recent reports have indicated that YouTube may have allowed companies to track children’s data across the internet, sparking concerns about violations of federal privacy protections for minors. This controversy has prompted Senators Markey and Blackburn to request a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation, claiming that the privacy breach could have affected many children across the United States.

In response, advocacy groups like Fairplay and the Center for Digital Democracy have filed a formal complaint with the FTC, advocating for stringent privacy restrictions on YouTube and questioning whether the platform has violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting data from users under 13 without proper parental consent.

Google and YouTube previously settled a case in 2019 for illegally collecting children’s data, resulting in a consent decree that imposed new privacy limits. Fairplay’s Executive Director, Josh Golin, believes a new investigation could reveal whether YouTube still violates the law. If found guilty, YouTube could be the first company to massively violate COPPA, get caught, and repeat the violation while under a consent decree.

Google countered the complaint’s findings, with spokesperson Michael Aciman stating that the report misinterprets advertising in content designed for children.

Why does it matter?

This case highlights a potential new challenge for the FTC in regulating tech giants’ handling of children’s data and privacy concerns. In May, the FTC aimed to stop Meta from profiting off users under 18, a notable enforcement effort. Meta will vigorously challenge this, labeling the FTC’s move as a ‘political stunt.’ The complaint now seeks similar curbs on Google, potentially leading to another FTC standoff with a Silicon Valley giant.