Consumer Watch: Advocacy groups file privacy complaint against YouTube

Twenty-two advocacy groups file a complaint against YouTube, claiming the site is illegally tracking children's data. (file)

Parents trying to track their kids’ online activity can use a website’s parent's resource page to get more information on how to keep your child safe online, but advocacy groups say one popular website is illegally tracking children's data, and has asked the Federal Trade Commission to get involved.

The site these 22 advocacy groups have filed a complaint on is YouTube. The claim is that YouTube collects data on children, which would be a violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Part of the coalition of groups filing this complaint include--Consumers union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports; The Center for Digital Democracy; and Common Sense Media. These and the other 19 groups say that the Google owned YouTube is gathering information on kids illegally, instead of clearly posting privacy notices and getting parent consent.

YouTube does say users need to be 13 or older to use the site, but advocacy groups says much of the content on the site is geared toward kids 6 to 12 years old.

In a statement, James P. Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, says in part:

"It is time for Google to be completely transparent with all the facts, and institute fundamentally responsible new policies moving forward to protect the privacy of kids."

You can find the official complaint here with the full list of the advocacy groups. It includes screen grabs indicating that searching for the term ‘children's videos’ shows 243-million results.

If you are concerned about any online platform gathering data on what your child is watching, you can stop using the app and opt for more traditional streaming services, DVDs, or downloads.

YouTube tells PC Magazine that it is reviewing the complaint to see if it can make any improvement, but Google did say that YouTube is not for children.

If the FTC finds YouTube is guilty of illegally collecting data on children, it can fine the platform more than $40,000 per violation.

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