YouTube critics urge FTC to crack down on handling of children's videos

YouTube critics urge FTC to crack down on handling of children's videos
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YouTube’s critics are pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to impose strict penalties for the streaming service's handling of children’s data after it was reported the agency was in the late stages of an investigation.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyWarren proposes 'Blue New Deal' to protect oceans There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trump administration drops plan to face scan all travelers leaving or entering US MORE (D-Mass.) and a pair of advocacy groups — the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy — both sent letters to the FTC on Tuesday calling for severe penalties for what they see as years of children’s privacy law violations.

“Companies of all types have strong business incentives to gather and monetize information about children,” Markey wrote. “Personal information about a child can be leveraged to hook consumers for years to come, so it is incumbent upon the FTC to enforce federal law and act as a check against the ever increasing appetite for children’s data.”

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Critics had alleged that YouTube’s handling of child viewers violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act’s (COPPA) restrictions on collecting data of children under 13.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that the FTC had launched an investigation after complaints from consumer groups. The paper reported that the agency was nearing the end of the probe, meaning that the two sides could be nearing a settlement; the exact status of the investigation and its scope are unclear.

Both letters on Tuesday called for high monetary penalties and for the FTC to require substantial changes to YouTube’s business practices, including requiring the company to move children’s videos to a standalone service that doesn’t collect data or target ads at viewers.

“By ensuring such changes, the Commission will do a tremendous service to America’s families seeking to provide a healthy media environment for their children, while sending a clear message to all online and mobile operators that no one is above the law,” the two consumer groups wrote in their letter.

“Google’s disregard of children’s welfare is demonstrated not only by the evidence in our complaints, but by numerous reports of violent,sexual and other inappropriate content available to children on both YouTube Kids and on the main YouTube platform.”

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.