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No fun and games as YouTube is accused of illegal collection of kids’ data

Illegal data tracking has become quite a quagmire these days. After Facebook (FB) fell facedown into it, it’s now YouTube that’s being dragged through the mud. Several child advocacy groups have accused YouTube of collecting information on the viewing behavior of kids under 13 without parental knowledge or consent. The groups have called upon the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for an investigation.

Children under 13 are not allowed to use YouTube, but apparently millions of them do, and Google (GOOG) has not been doing enough to prevent this. The groups have alleged that Google knew the fact that children use its website but it went ahead and collected their data in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Child advocates have demanded that Google be fined heavily for this infraction.

YouTube said it would read the complaint and look for areas of improvement. The video-sharing website added that one of its significant investments was in the kids’ alternative YouTube Kids app. The app, though designed particularly for children with more parental control options, is less popular compared to YouTube. The same content is available on YouTube as well, so kids opt to watch the conventional platform rather than the app.

Google came under the radar shortly after Facebook’s fall from grace. Data privacy is a hot topic right now, and this issue does not put YouTube in the best light at all, especially when it involves kids. The union that filed the complaint against YouTube has alleged that the website has built a very profitable business around kids-oriented advertising through its unethical collection of user data.

YouTube has defended itself by saying it does not allow anyone under 13 to sign up for its services and also blocks underage user accounts. It also stated that its policies do not allow data collection or targeted advertising on under-age users. However, child rights activists are not convinced. If found guilty, YouTube will have to pay a hefty price.

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