Senators call for FTC investigation into Google over YouTube ads that violate children’s privacy
A bipartisan pair of senators have co-authored a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to conduct an investigation into Google over YouTube ads that enable the tracking of children.
In the letter written by Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, they said that this alleged behavior by YouTube and Google “is estimated to have impacted hundreds of thousands, to potentially millions, of children across the United States.”
“YouTube and Google shouldn’t treat young people’s information as something they can profit from without any limits,” the letter continued. “We need laws to protect young people’s privacy online, and we should stop targeted advertising to kids and teenagers.”
According to a New York Times report, YouTube is allegedly engaged with channels monitoring the online activities of children through their advertisements, despite its promise to limit the collection of viewer data and stop serving personalized advertisements on videos for kids.
The recent findings suggest that these promises might not have been fully upheld. A recent example cited in the report involves Canadian bank BMO which had a recent ad campaign for a credit card that was displayed on a Barbie-themed children’s video on the popular channel “Kids Diana Show.”
Upon clicking the ad, users were directed to BMO’s website, which embedded tracking software from various tech giants, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft.
The report also unearthed other unsettling findings, such as more than 300 advertisements for adult products appearing on nearly 100 YouTube videos that were labeled as “made for kids.”
Additionally, certain children’s channels were found to have displayed ads with violent content. These discoveries have ignited debates about the appropriateness of certain advertisements on children’s content and have highlighted the potential risks to children’s online privacy.
This practice potentially violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which mandates that online services directed at children must obtain parental consent before collecting personal data from users under the age of 13, especially for purposes like targeted advertising.
Google and YouTube deny accusations of child monitoring
The iOS mobile app of YouTube generates and shares a unique ad tracking ID whenever a user interacts with an advertisement on a “for kids” channel. When users click on ads adjacent to such videos, YouTube allegedly opens a specialized in-app “web view” browser, where distinct ad targeting and tracker IDs are established.
In the study conducted by Analytics, this practice extends beyond the website of YouTube, as even the mobile app appears to facilitate data exchange with ad personalization specialists.
Furthermore, Analytics identified around 313 brands advertising adult-oriented consumer products, such as cars and razors, on videos labeled as “for kids.” This usually happens even when users are not signed into an account.
In response to these allegations, a spokesperson from Google stated: “Analytics has now released a second report within a short span of time, and regrettably, it is once again riddled with inaccuracies and misleading information.”
The spokesperson emphasized that personalized advertising has never been permissible on YouTube Kids and that this rule was extended to cover all viewers of “made for kids” content, irrespective of age. (Related: YouTube protects child sex trafficking, pedophiles and groomers by BANNING interviews and videos about “Sound of Freedom” film.)
Google’s representative disputed the claims, noting that the conclusions lack a well-informed basis and primarily revolve around the presence of cookies. They stated that cookies are commonly used for legitimate purposes, such as detecting fraudulent activities and managing ad frequency, in compliance with COPPA regulations.
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