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The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has received a complaint against YouTube for tracking kids online.
The platform is facing accusations of collecting information about the videos kids watch along with device and location data.
YouTube tracking kids through ads
Among the ads kids were seeing was one for BMO, a Canadian bank looking to attract new credit card users.
Viewers who clicked on it were taken to the bank’s website. Then, it targeted them with a browser tracking software Google, Meta, Microsoft, and other tech giants use.
In the US, YouTube showed the ad on a Kids Diana Show video inspired by Barbie and Ken. The channel is aimed at preschoolers and has 113 million subscribers and over 94 billion views.
According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA, any services collecting kids’ data require parental consent.
The main YouTube website is supposedly off-limits to anyone under the age of 13, but younger users rarely abide by this rule.
The streaming service has a separate YouTube Kids app. However, 89% of those between the ages of 3 and 17 in the UK use the standard version.
The same report shows that only 40% of children aged 3-4, 33% of those aged 5-7, and 18% of those between 8 and 11 years old use YouTube Kids.
Duncan McCann, a staff member at 5Rights, filed a complaint with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). His stance is that YouTube is tracking information on both the devices kids use and their location.
He compared the situation to having a grown person following kids on the internet and recording everything they do. McCann added that YouTube is tracking 5 million kids in the UK.
McCann and 5Rights founder, Beeban Kidron, want companies that collected the data to delete it. They also asked them to delete the machine learning system they used in the process.
The response from YouTube
YouTube didn’t wait long to respond to the accusations.
Dan Taylor, a spokesperson for Google, YouTube’s parent company, said in a report that the platform invested a lot into protecting kids and families who use the service.
He hinted at the launch of YouTube Kids, introducing separate data policies for kids’ content, and creating more age-appropriate experiences.
YouTube said it will continue to work with the ICO and other experts in the field to ensure kids on the platform are safe.
In 2019, a US regulator fined the video streaming service $170 million for a similar issue. Later, it was again fined for collecting data from users below the age of 13.