Complaint against YouTube over alleged collection of data about children

YouTube logo

YouTube allegedly has access to the locations, viewing habits and preferences of up to five million children in the UK (Image: Unsplash0

A father-of-three has filed a complaint against YouTube for allegedly collecting data on children’s viewing habits in violation of the Information Commissioner’s Office of Age-Based Design Code.

The complaint against the popular online video platform was filed by data protection activist Duncan McCann as a private individual.

His actions are supported by his employer, the charity 5Rights, which said it was the first complaint against a major tech company for allegedly violating the “Children’s Code” or “age-appropriate design code”, which was introduced in September 2021.

The Code sets out the standards that online services must meet to comply with UK data protection law for children and protect their personal information online.

The Information Commissioner’s office said it would “carefully consider the complaint” and Mr McCann said he had three months to tell him whether he would undertake an investigation.

McCann’s complaint alleges that at least the location, viewing habits and preferences of up to five million British children are systematically recorded by the internet giant, breaching data protection laws and breaching industry standards designed to protect young people under the age of 13.

The boy is watching YouTube

A father has filed a complaint against YouTube for allegedly collecting data on children’s viewing habits (Image credit: Unsplash)

“Imagine YouTube as an adult stranger following your child ‘online’ with a virtual clipboard recording everything they do. This happens every day, and they don’t just do it with your baby,” McCann’s said.

“They also do this with five million other children in the UK, resulting in the collection of a huge amount of personal information”

He believes YouTube should redesign its platform, adjust the algorithm that guides recommended videos and ad targeting, and remove the data it has collected from children under 13.

The platform offers YouTube Kids, which it says is “family friendly” and uses automatic filters and parental feedback to protect children.

But Mr McCann told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that YouTube was “trying to have its cake and eat it” as Ofcom figures show many children under 13 use the main platform to watch “plenty of videos”.

5Rights says its work aims to ensure that children’s needs and rights are not ignored in digital design, so that the same freedoms, protections and privileges young people are entitled to offline also apply online.

A kid watching an iPad

The complaint against the popular online video platform was filed by data rights advocate Duncan McCann as a private individual (Image: unsplash0

“We support Mr. McCann’s efforts to ensure compliance with data laws that protect children. It is well known that data privacy regimes are critical to keep children safe online,” said Baroness Kidron, founder of 5Rights.

“Data law is not a set of elements that companies want to follow, it is a holistic approach that requires companies to offer children the highest degree of data privacy, thereby reducing their exposure to harmful online experiences and exploitation.”

“The Children’s Code makes it clear that children are not like adults online and their data needs significant protection. We will carefully consider this complaint,” said Stephen Bonner, deputy commissioner of the ICO.

“Parents expect their children to be protected online, and as a regulator, we expect children’s data to be protected online. If not, we will take action.”

“We’ve seen improvements in how children are treated online as a result of our work on the Children’s Code, including less targeted advertising and new parental supervision tools.”

“Over the years, we’ve invested in protecting children and families, such as launching a dedicated app for children, introducing new data practices for children’s content, and providing a more age-appropriate experience,” a YouTube spokesperson said.

“Building on this longstanding approach and following the additional guidance in the Code, we have implemented further measures to enhance children’s privacy on YouTube, such as more protective default settings and a dedicated YouTube supervised environment.”

“We remain committed to continuing to work with the ICO on this priority work and with other key stakeholders including children, parents and child protection experts.”

MORE: YouTube has a new CEO following Susan Wojcicki’s resignation

MORE: YouTube steps up fight against TikTok with monetization of short videos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *