YouTube is Still Tracking Kids Through its Ads, Study Says





YouTube is still tracking children through ads served to video marked as “made for kids,” according Adalytics, a research firm that looks at ad campaigns for brands.

The study found that ads from Fortune 500 advertisers and major media agencies are still being attached to children’s content, including popular channels such as Cocomelon Nursery Rhymes & Kids and ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs. As a result, data brokers and ad tech companies are receiving data from those viewers and could be tracking them, Adalytics said.

YouTube, its parent Alphabet, and these firms may be violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which requires services to get a parent’s permission before collecting data from users that are younger than 13 for the purposes of ads. In addition, this would be the second time YouTube was caught violating COPPA. In 2019, Alphabet, representing Google and YouTube, had to pay $170 million to settle COPPA violations, and agreed to a consent decree forbidding them from serving ads that tracked children.

Google disputed the report. “There is no evidence that Google and YouTube violated their 2019 agreement with the F.T.C.” A Google spokesman also told the New York Times that the study was “deeply flawed and misleading.”

A screenshot of the Cocomelon YouTube page.
Screenshot by Roger Cheng/Cord Cutters News

Beyond, YouTube, companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft may be receiving this data as well, Adalytics said. The study noted that while many advertisers don’t want their commercials played in front of Made for Kids content, the software controls offered by Google make it difficult to avoid them.

In response, Sen. Edward Markey, a democrat from Massachusetts, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican for Tennessee, sent. a letter to the FTC and asked Chair Lina Khan to investigate YouTube and Google for the “suspected violations.”

“YouTube and Google cannot continue treating young people’s data as an unprotected commodity from which to profit with abandon. Not only must the FTC act, but Congress must also pass legislation to protect young people’s privacy online and finally ban targeted advertising to kids and teens. We look forward to working with the Commission to ensure young people continue to have strong privacy protections,” they said in the letter.

The senators also advocated for an update to the 1998 COPPA legislation, which would update the rules to better suit the current state of technology and social media.

Adalytics identified more than 300 brands whose ads were served to kids.

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