YouTube Being Sued for Children’s Privacy Violations

YouTube building signage

YouTube is being sued in the UK for violating UK and EU children privacy laws. The class action style lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of £2.5 billion from the Google owned company. YouTube faced a similar lawsuit in the US last year for violating America’s federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The UK Lawsuit

A class action style lawsuit was filed against Google owned YouTube in the UK High Court. Youtube, the American online video sharing platform, is being sued for breaking UK and European data protection laws. The lawsuit is being brought against YouTube for unlawfully gathering data from some five million UK under 13-year-old children and for tracking them online. The lawsuit states that children’s data is being gathered by YouTube without parental consent. And that YouTube profits from this data, as they are paid by advertisers to place targeted advertising on their website.

The UK’s Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) contain specific laws regarding children’s data. These laws limit the age at which children can legally consent to their data being processed. In the UK this age is set at 13. For children younger than 13, parental consent must be sought instead.

Compensation Claim Amount

This is the first case in the UK that is being brought against a tech giant on behalf of children and their parents. The lawsuit was filed by the privacy campaigner Duncan McCann and supported by Foxglove, a tech justice group. And it is amongst the largest of such cases to date. The lawsuit seeks compensation of between £100 and £500 for every British child who has watched YouTube content since May 25, 2018. That is the date that the GDPR came into force in Europe. If the case succeeds, it could cost Google as much as £2.5 billion.

Cori Crider, director of Foxglove stated in a press release that “The real price of YouTube’s ‘free’ services is kids addicted, influenced, and exploited by Google. It’s already unlawful to data-mine children under 13. But Google won’t clean up its act until forced by the courts.”

When asked about the lawsuit, Google defended itself by saying that YouTube was not intended for users under the age of the 13. Furthermore, Google pointed out that it had developed YouTube Kids back in 2015, which children should be using instead. It said that this dedicated children’s app was developed to offer children a “safer and easier” space with “family-focused content”.

Previous YouTube Lawsuit

This is not the first time YouTube faces such charges. YouTube faced similar charges in the US, which it settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last year. Google paid $170 million to settle allegations that YouTube had illegally collected children’s personal information without parental consent.

The FTC ruled that although YouTube is not specifically intended for children, some of its channels were directed at children. Consequently, YouTube must comply with the US’s COPPA regulations. As part of the settlement, YouTube was also required to put in place a system allowing channel owners to identify themselves as making child-directed content. YouTube put this measure in place in January this year, along with new advertising rules for children-aimed video content.

Information technology expert
Grace is an information technology expert who joined the VPNoverview team in 2019, writing cybersecurity and internet privacy-based news articles. Due to her IT background in legal firms, these subjects have always been of great interest to her.