Shares of America's most powerful tech titans such as Google parent company Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) and Facebook Inc. (FB) have taken a hit this year on fears of heightened regulation in regards to how the companies manage and protect their users' data. (See also: GOOGL, FB Overdue for Govt. Oversight: Jim Mellon.)
On Monday, some 20 advocacy groups filed a complain to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), suggesting that Google's YouTube platform is violating children's privacy law. The complaint, led by the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood calls for a drastic change in how YouTube handles children's content and that the firm pay a fine amounting to "tens of billions" of dollars for allegedly profiting off of underage viewers.
The child advocacy, consumer and privacy groups indicate that the video platform is violating a federal children's privacy law, particularly the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The legislation requires that websites directed at children under the age of 13 notify parents and receive their consent before they're allowed to collect their children's data.
Kids in a Kid-Free Zone?
While technically, YouTube is aimed at users of 13 years of age or older, as stated in its terms, the complaint highlights several examples of how the site targets younger children, such as cartoon videos, nursery rhymes and toy ads. Some of the platform's most popular channels are catered to young children, such as ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs, which has nearly 16 million subscribers an over 10 billion channel views.
"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,” stated Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, one of the groups who signed the complaint. "Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy.”
The complaint indicated that the illegal collection has been going on "for many years and involved tens of millions of US Children." (See also: Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon: Now ‘Too Big to Fail’?)