YouTube to Limit Data Collection on All Children’s Content Following $170 Million Penalty

Updated: 2020-01-02 08:50:14

YouTube is soon set to limit the way it collects data on videos designed for children to comply with a federal privacy clampdown, a move which will limit advertisers’ ability to target children.

The change in data collection, which is expected to begin early January, follows Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allegations that by collecting personal information about children, the video giant has been violating the 1998 Online Privacy Protection Act.

It will mean Google’s YouTube will, in the coming weeks, cease to show data-driven personalized ads on videos for children, The Wall Street Journal reported. YouTube creators of children-aimed content will see ad revenue squeezed, while the data of videos which target a broader audience will still be collected by YouTube.

The move follows Google being fined $170 million by the FTC early September to settle allegations that it broke federal law.

YouTube had been accused of tracking viewers of children’s channels using cookies without parental consent and using those cookies to target million of dollars in advertisements to those viewers.

The settlement with the FTC and the New York attorney general’s office, which will receive $34 million, was the largest since a law banning collecting information about children under the age of 13 came into effect in 1998. The law was revised in 2013 to include “cookies,” used to track a person’s internet viewing habits.

The agency’s commissioner Rohit Chopra wrote on Twitter that YouTube “baited kids with nursery rhymes, cartoons, and more to feed its massively profitable behavioral advertising business.”

“It was lucrative, and it was illegal,” he added.

At the time, YouTube issued a statement that it would begin treating all data collected from people watching children’s content as if it came from a child.

“This means that we will limit data collection and use on videos made for kids only to what is needed to support the operation of the service,” the video giant said on its blog.

The FTC has received a record 175,000 submissions from anxious content creators, who are demanding it does not meddle with YouTube, the WSJ reported. Many are reliant on earnings made through advertisements which play before, during, and after their videos.

“We believe that our content is for a general audience, but the government can come tell us, ‘No, it’s not,’” creator Mike Moore told the news outlet. “That’s the scary part.”

Meanwhile, industry expert Josh Golin, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told the WSJ he believes Google is responsible.

“Google should have been obeying the law and the creators wouldn’t be in this mess,” he said.

YouTube has long stated that its platform has never been designed for children under the age of 13.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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