Google and YouTube targeted by lawsuit over violation of children’s privacy

Google again in the sights of justice on the other side of the Atlantic. The Mountain View company is the subject of a complaint for not respecting the privacy of children under 13 on YouTube, its subsidiary. A US appeals court has just relaunched the case on Wednesday, December 28, reports the Reuters agency.

This is about parental consent

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco declared the complaint by several plaintiffs from Tennessee, California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts and other states admissible. The alleged victims claim that Google’s collection of data on its YouTube platform on behalf of several companies is illegal under US law. Hasbro, Mattel, Cartoon Network and DreamWorks Animation allegedly lured children to their channels knowing that their YouTube activity would be tracked and targeted advertising would be shown.

The victims refer to a policy that Google practiced between July 2013 and April 2020 for YouTube users aged 16 and under. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit seeks damages for the children. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2021 by a San Francisco district judge on the grounds that federal privacy law took precedence over complaints filed by the plaintiffs. On Wednesday, Judge Margaret McKeow called “absurd” this decision and decided to reopen the case.

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COPPA applied since 2020?

Google did not comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) until January 2020. As a reminder, COPPA protects the privacy of minors under the age of 13 in the United States. The legislation was passed in 1998 and applies “operators of commercial websites and online services […] who collects, uses or discloses children’s personal information, or on whose behalf that information is collected or maintained (such as when the personal information is collected by an advertising network to serve targeted ads);“, explains the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

In particular, the law specifies the duty for online platforms to “inform the parents directly and [d’]obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, before collecting personal information online from children.” Contacted by Reuters, lawyers for Google and content providers did not respond to the reopening of the case.

Recently, on December 20, Epic Games, the publisher of Fortnite and Autumn guys, was fined $520 million, including for non-compliance with COPPA. The FTC charged the company with several flagrant violations of the law.

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