A loophole in YouTube’s Terms of Service has enabled the content sharing platform to collect data from users 13 years old and under without consent.
Websites which serve content to children younger than 13 years old are, by law, required to get parental consent on the site before they’re able to harvest data from the young users.
However, given YouTube stipulates in its Terms of Service the platform is specifically for users older than 13, it skips having to ask for parental consent.
In the site’s T&C’s it addresses age consent by asking users to “affirm that you are over the age of 13, as the Service is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service.”
Now, more than 20 advocacy groups in the US have banded together to point out this loophole and the ability it gives YouTube to mine children’s data.
The unified group, named Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), has filed a joint complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission which states YouTube, and in effect parent company Google, are violating child protection laws.
They claim Google is collecting data from minors on YouTube, such as phone numbers and website tracking, and does so without first asking for parental consent.
In the complaint, Center for Digital Democracy’s Jeff Chester said, “Google has acted duplicitously by falsely claiming in its terms of service that YouTube is only for those who are age 13 or older, while it deliberately lured young people into an ad-filled digital playground.”
“Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy,” he added.
According to statistics, YouTube is used by more than 80 per cent of children in the US between the ages of six and 12.
Worst still, Google unveiled an app exclusively for young users in 2015 called YouTube kids which groups child-friendly content.
Speaking on the issue, CCFC executive director Josh Golin said, “For years, Google has abdicated its responsibility to kids and families by disingenuously claiming YouTube — a site rife with popular cartoons, nursery rhymes, and toy ads — is not for children under 13.”
“Google profits immensely by delivering ads to kids and must comply with Coppa. It’s time for the FTC to hold Google accountable for its illegal data collection and advertising practices,” he added.