New research released today by Adalytics raises serious questions about whether Google is violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting data and serving personalized ads on child-directed videos on YouTube. In 2019, in response to a Request for Investigation by Fairplay and the Center for Digital Democracy, the Federal Trade Commission fined Google $170 million for violating COPPA on YouTube and required Google to change its data-collection and advertising practices on child-directed videos. As a result of that settlement, Google agreed to stop serving personalized ads and limit data collection on child-directed videos. Today's report - and subsequent reporting by The New York Times - call into question whether Google is complying with the settlement.
STATEMENTS FROM FAIRPLAY AND CDD:
Josh Golin, Executive Director, Fairplay:
This report should be a wake-up call to parents, regulators and lawmakers, and anyone who cares about children — or the rule of law, for that matter. Even after being caught red-handed in 2019 violating COPPA, Google continues to exploit young children, and mislead parents and regulators about its data collection and advertising practices on YouTube. The FTC must launch an immediate and comprehensive investigation of Google and, if they confirm this report's explosive allegations, seek penalties and injunctive relief commensurate with the systematic disregard of the law by a repeat offender. Young children should be able to watch age-appropriate content on the world's biggest video platform with their right to privacy guaranteed, full stop.
Jeff Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy:
Google operates the leading online destination for kids’ video programming so it can reap enormous profits, including through commercial surveillance data and advertising tactics. It must be held accountable by the FTC for what appears are violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and its own commitments. Leading advertisers, ad agencies, media companies and others partnering with Google appear to have been more interested in clicks than the safety of youth. There is a massive and systemic failure across the digital marketplace when it comes to protecting children’s privacy. Congress should finally stand up to the powerful “Big Data” ad lobby and enact long-overdue privacy legislation. Google’s operations must also be dealt with by antitrust regulators. It operates imperiously in the digital arena with no accountability. The Adalytics study should serve as a chilling reminder that our commercial surveillance system is running amok, placing even our most vulnerable at great risk.