New Pressure on Google and YouTube Over Children’s Data
The New York Times
In the context of a growing national debate on tech and privacy, Google has come under increased scrutiny for how it may be tracking and targeting children for advertising.
Two House members sent a letter this week to the company’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, expressing concern that the collection practices of YouTube, a Google subsidiary, may not comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as Coppa.
The letter on Monday — from David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Jeff Fortenberry, Republican of Nebraska — followed up on a complaint filed in April by more than 20 advocacy groups. The groups sought an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces Coppa.
In addition to the complaint and the lawmakers’ letter, Google is facing pressure from the New Mexico attorney general on how it may collect children’s location data. The state official named the tech giant as a defendant in a lawsuit filed last week against the developer of Fun Kid Racing and other gaming apps, along with advertisers involved with them, claiming that they were sharing children’s data without their parents’ permission.
YouTube has said its practices are in line with Coppa, which requires companies to obtain explicit, verifiable permission from parents before collecting personal information from children under 13 or targeting them with ads tied to their online behavior.
“There’s more interest in children’s privacy than there has been in a long time, and that’s related to the broader privacy conversations that we’re having,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who was involved with the April complaint and the new push by lawmakers. “Whether that leads to Google being held to account is yet to be seen.”
YouTube’s terms of service state that its main app and website are meant only for viewers 13 and older, which means that the site does not have to comply with Coppa. The company directs those under 13 to the YouTube Kids app, which pulls its videos from the main site. Google’s website says YouTube Kids prohibits “interest-based advertising” and ads with “tracking pixels.”