YouTube is mulling over changes to how it handles content targeted at children amid a reported investigation by the Federal Trade Commission over allegations it violated the privacy of kids.
At issue is whether YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, according to the Washington Post. COPPA makes it illegal for companies to collect information about children under the age of 13, unless they receive parental consent.
YouTube and the FTC declined to comment.
YouTube has long been playing with fire when it comes to COPPA compliance, according to privacy experts. Last year, more than 20 groups sent a letter to the FTC asking regulators to look into whether YouTube was collecting information about the habits of children without parental consent.
“Device sharing in families is part of the problem,” says Dona Fraser, vice president of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, an independent, self-regulatory agency of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that monitors ads geared toward children. Many parents will allow their kids to use family devices, which are often registered to an adult, to watch videos.
Parents are generally unaware of the nuances of ad tracking, and the data that is collected when they hand over devices to their kids, she says. Fraser says a simple “on” and “off” switch could help YouTube get around this issue.
YouTube seems to have other ideas. One possible solution to ensure COPPA compliance involves moving all children’s content to the standalone YouTube Kids app, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
YouTube has also reportedly discussed turning off autoplay on kids’ videos, which would ensure that kids aren’t led down a black hole of endless videos and perhaps, to more mature content and ads.
There’s a reason why YouTube’s algorithm wants to offer people more content to watch: The more people are sucked into watching more videos, the more revenue YouTube collects from advertisers. The children’s market is an important part of YouTube’s revenue. While the company doesn’t disclose sales, Loup Ventures estimates that 5% of YouTube’s revenue comes from content tailored to kids.
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