A consortium of children’s, privacy and consumer rights groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google over alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
COPPA, established in 1998 with amendments dating to this year, prohibits online companies servicing people under the age of 13 from knowingly collecting personal information without parental consent.
In the case of Google, advocates are targeting the kid-oriented videos placed on YouTube, which it backs with targeted advertising.
The complainants, including the Center for Digital Democracy, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Childhood Entertainment and others, cite research finding that 80 percent of kids aged 6 to 12 browse YouTube daily. Google facilitates video publishers with a YouTube Kids application and a YouTube Kids Field Guide for content standards.
With “nearly 25 million children in the US” potentially affected and a maximum fine of $41,484 per breach, this could set the way for billions of dollars in fines if the FTC carries a case to Google.
In 2015, advocates claimed that YouTube Kids violated the FTC’s unfair and deceptive marketing rules for product placements in videos such as unboxings.
BuzzFeed reports from its sources that in addition to these concerns, Google is said to be addressing inappropriate video suggestions as given by the YouTube Kids app by converting it away from an algorithm-driven content pool to a human-curated one. This change could take place in weeks.