Further ReadingYouTube fined $170 million for violations of children’s privacy "YouTube, and its parent company Google, are ignoring laws designed to protect children," Foxglove wrote in a press release. "They know full well that millions of children watch YouTube. They’re making money from unlawfully harvesting data about these young children as they watch YouTube videos—and then running highly targeted adverts, designed to influence vulnerable young minds."
A spokesperson for Google told Bloomberg News that YouTube is not intended for users 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," the company told Bloomberg.
You don't have to be logged in or registered in order to view most videos on YouTube, so there's no age-gating. Anyone can view videos, including kids. YouTube boasted to toy companies Mattel and Hasbro that "YouTube was unanimously voted as the favorite website for kids 2-12" and "93% of tweens visit YouTube to watch videos," according to the FTC's complaint.
Further ReadingYouTube decides it’s easier to treat all watchers of kids’ content as kids While Google's left hand boasted to toymakers about how many kids viewed its content, the company's right hand said the opposite. According to an email obtained by the FTC, one Google employee wrote, "we don’t have users that are below 13 on YouTube and platform/site is general audience, so there is no channel/content that is child-directed and no COPPA compliance is needed."
Same problem, different lawThe UK lawsuit points to those same claims YouTube made to Mattel and Hasbro and pairs them with a UK government report from February that found about 75 percent of UK kids ages five to 15 watch YouTube, along with roughly half of UK preschoolers aged three and four.
UK law, like COPPA, protects the personal information of children under 13. That, Foxglove argues, makes YouTube's actions against the law:
We think its unlawful because YouTube processes the data of every child who uses the service—including kids under 13. They profit from this data, as they are paid by advertisers to place targeted advertising on their YouTube website. They do all this without getting explicit consent from the children’s parents. Under the GDPR and UK law, corporations can’t process the data of kids under 13 *at all* without explicit parental consent. Parents haven’t agreed to the many ways YouTube takes kids’ data.
The suit was filed on behalf of more than 5 million children residing in England and Wales and seeks compensation of between £100 and £500 for every child who watched a video on YouTube since May 25, 2018—the day the EU's General Data Protection Regulation took effect. "Google’s drive to profit from kids' attention has turned corners of YouTube into a weird technicolored nightmare," Foxglove Director Cori Crider said. "The real price of YouTube’s ‘free’ services is kids addicted, influenced, and exploited by Google. It’s already unlawful to data-mine children under 13. But Google won’t clean up its act until forced by the courts."