Every country has laws and measures to safeguard children's rights. Organizations violating these laws are subject to hefty fines and other penalties. Recent reports suggest that YouTube may be headed in this direction, as they have been accused of targeting young children with their ads.
These new allegations mean YouTube might be breaking its agreement with the FTC and the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). It is important to note that the tech giant Google owns YouTube.
In June, a lawsuit was filed against them for violating children's privacy in Android apps under the Designed For Families program. However, regarding the lawsuit related explicitly to YouTube, the tech giant has denied the accusations.
It has been claimed that YouTube has always adhered to regulations regarding the privacy of children. Nevertheless, recent reports suggest that YouTube is taking measures to prevent the use of ad-blockers, indicating a strong desire to increase the number of viewers who see their ads.
According to a report from ad analysis company Adalytics, YouTube has included children in its advertising demographics, which violates its agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made on September 4, 2019. This action goes against their promise to stop targeting ads towards children.
CEO Susan Wojcicki's commitment that day might look like a joke, judging from the new reports. Apparently, the commitment entailed that targeted ads shouldn't be displayed even while showing made-for-children videos.
How Does YouTube Target Kids?
Ad metrics firm Adalytics has insight into how YouTube targets children and makes customized ads for them. Apparently, it is alleged that YouTube usually sets long-lasting cookies specifically for ad targeting and tracking in the user's web browser.
These cookies collect user data and then use them to create personalized ads for kids. According to the reports, it says YouTube sets "behaviorally and demographically targeted ads on YouTube videos that are clearly labeled as 'for kids."
Furthermore, the report says the video platform has a particular way of displaying such ads on the mobile device. The report says that YouTube" sets and shares a unique ad tracking ID every time a viewer on a 'for kids' channel clicks on a YouTube ad."
So whenever a user clicks on the ad, it opens" in a special in-app 'webview' browser, where Google both sets various ad targeting and tracker IDs on the viewer’s iPhone, and the YouTube app allows other data brokers and ad personalization vendors to gather and share unique identifiers on the viewer."
Google Reacts to the Allegations
Tech giant Google has debunked the allegations against YouTube ads. A Google spokesperson said the report was misleading, and no evidence supported the claim.
"This is the second time in recent weeks that Adalytics has published a deeply flawed and misleading report. Personalized advertising has never been allowed on YouTube Kids, and in January 2020 we expanded this to anyone watching 'made for kids' content on YouTube, regardless of their age."
"The report makes completely false claims and draws uninformed conclusions based solely on the presence of cookies, which are widely used in these contexts for the purposes of fraud detection and frequency capping — both of which are permitted under COPPA. The portions of this report that were shared with us didn’t identify a single example of these policies being violated," Google said.