Google’s parent company Alphabet is facing a $3 billion lawsuit after claims that the company was both collecting and tracking child data, a violation of privacy laws on its Youtube platform.
The lawsuit originates in the UK, which has been filed by privacy campaigner, Duncan McCann in the High Court of the UK on the behalf of more than five million British children, as well as their parents; their case has been supported by an advocacy group called Foxglove, as well as Vannin Capital.
“Google won’t clean up its act until it’s forced to do so by the courts,” – Cori Crider
London-based law firm Hauseld & Co LLP has alleged that Youtube – and its parent company Alphabet – were in violation of privacy laws after tracking children using the platform that were under the age of 13. The suit goes on to claim that Youtube “routinely” violates both the UK’s Data Protection Act, as well as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The firm says that these children, as well as their parents deserve financial compensation for the breach of privacy laws, due to the fact that the platform “makes no adequate attempt to limit usage by youngsters,” and has no means of implementing its user age requirements.
The case alleges that Youtube has “systematically broken these laws by harvesting children’s data without obtaining prior parental consent.”
A spokesperson for Youtube has refused to comment on specifics of the court case, but has said that “Youtube is not for children under the age of 13.”
“We launched the YouTube Kids app as a dedicated destination for kids and are always working to better protect kids and their families on Youtube,” the spokesperson said.
Cori Crider, director of tech advocacy group Foxglove says that “the cost of Youtube’s so-called free service is kids that are addicted to online content and influenced by large tech companies that have stolen their privacy.”
“Google won’t clean up its act until it’s forced to do so by the courts,” Crider added.
This is not the first time that Alphabet has been hit with this type of legal action. Just last year, Alphabet was fined USD $170 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for collecting the personal information of children without the explicit permission of their parents. The FTC found Google and Youtube guilty of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the fine represented the largest single amount ever handed out by the FTC in a COPPA-related case since its introduction into law in 1998.
According to a statement from the FTC, “the COPPA Rule requires child-directed websites and online services provide notice of their information practices and obtain parental consent prior to collecting personal information from children under 13, including the use of persistent identifiers to track a user’s Internet browsing habits for targeted information.”
At that time, FTC Chairman Joe Simons said that “Youtube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients… yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids.”
Simons added that “there’s no excuse for Youtube’s violations of the law.”