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Landmark YouTube Case Highlights Children’s Data Concerns

Landmark YouTube Case Highlights Children’s Data Concerns

Another day, another large tech company under fire for breaches of data laws. This week, its YouTube’s turn.

In a real life David versus Goliath showdown, UK campaigner Duncan McCann is taking YouTube to court over breaches of laws on privacy and data collection of children using the site.

According to Duncan, YouTube is gathering data about what videos children are watching, where they are watching and what devices they are watching from. None of this data gathering is done with parental consent.

Duncan is taking on the case in a personal capacity on behalf of his son, but works for the campaign group 5Rights Foundation, which advocates and lobbies for the rights and needs of children to be placed at the forefront of the digital world and how it operates.

The case is being taken to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK and is the first real test of the ICO’s children’s code, introduced in 2020 and enforceable from 2021. The code is comprised of 15 regulations tech companies have to abide by to protect children’s data online.

It is not the first time that YouTube has landed itself in hot water over issues around children using their site. In 2019, the company, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, was fined $170 million in the US for violating children’s privacy laws. Prior to that, there were other accusations that the company is was systematically collecting data on children under the age of 13 without parental consent.

In 2018, the company was also fined for allowing ads to be targeted at children based on their online behaviour.

The implications of all of this on children is what is so concerning. Children are hugely vulnerable in terms of their online use and are much more susceptible to targeted advertising and shady, unscrupulous companies who want to use their date for other nefarious purposes. The protection of children’s data should be of the utmost importance for policymakers and regulators worldwide.

This young generation of children aged around 13 today will be the first people in history to have never known a life without widespread use of the internet and social media sites. They are the first children of our digital age and as such will have had data gathered online about them from the cradle to the grave.

This is something we as a society should be concerned about and take a firm stance on.


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