YouTube under scrutiny in UK for ‘child data gathering’

YouTube under scrutiny in UK for ‘child data gathering’

LONDON - Britain's news regulator said on Wednesday it would look into a formal complaint accusing YouTube Alphabet Inc of illegally collecting data from millions of children.

A complaint from father-of-three Duncan McCann, an activist, and his employer-backed advocacy group 5Rights, alleged that the video-streaming platform violated a recent law by asking for “the locations, viewing habits, and preferences” of 5 million children.

Countries are struggling to strike the right balance with laws that protect social media users, especially children, from harmful content without compromising freedom of expression.

McCann said in a statement that YouTube should redesign its platform and remove the data it collects. "This is a massive, unauthorized social experiment on our children with uncertain consequences," McCann said.

A YouTube spokesperson said it has taken steps to strengthen children's privacy through more protective default settings and has invested in keeping children and families safe by launching a dedicated app for children and introducing new data practices.

The YouTube spokesperson said in a statement, "We remain committed to continuing our engagement with the ICO on this priority work, and with other key stakeholders, including children, parents, and child protection experts.

The British Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) would carefully evaluate the complaint.

"The Children's Code makes clear that children are not like adults online, and their data needs meaningful protections," the ICO's Deputy Commissioner, Regulatory Supervision, Stephen Bonner, said in a statement.

To protect children, the Children's Code mandates that providers adhere to 15 design and privacy standards, which include limiting the collection of personal information about children's whereabouts.

In 2019, YouTube was fined $170 million by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle allegations that it violated federal law by collecting personal information from children.

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