YouTube’s new profiles for children have privacy experts very concerned

Nov 4, 2017 by

By Kari Paul –

The video streaming platform announced new ‘kid profiles’

Be careful what privacy permissions you give your child.

Children’s video streaming may have just gotten more invasive.

YouTube GOOG, +0.67% is now allowing parents to make profiles for their children that personalize content based on a child’s age and interests. To create an account, you are required to put the birth date and name of your child. This allows families with multiple children to keep separate accounts that allow for more age-specific recommendations from Google and is tailored to children under the age of 13.

Privacy experts aren’t convinced your child should have his/her own profile at such a young age. “It is very concerning,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Google seems to be setting up consumer profiles for children that may be going into its vast profiling machinery used for advertising.”

A Google spokeswoman told MarketWatch that YouTube Kids does not use children’s data for the personalization of paid ads. “When a parent sets up a profile for their child, the only information collected is the name and birthday,” she said. “That input is then used to customize the experience.” She added, “Older kids will receive more text and more videos on the home screen.”

In the U.S., the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restricts the collection of data on children under 13 without parental consent. That makes these YouTube accounts a game-changer for minors. Why? Parents must explicitly consent to the collection of data on their children when accepting the terms of agreement on the app, making it legal for Google to target them. “It’s legal, but it isn’t ethical or fair to children,” Golin said.

Google says it allows children to browse safely

Per the privacy policy, Google GOOG, +0.67%   automatically collects and stores information about a child’s activity on the app, including search queries and viewing habits. If a child uses audio commands with a device, their voice recordings, including several seconds before and after the recording, will be logged and stored by Google. Location information is also collected by Google.

The company says in its privacy policy it will not serve ads to children based on specific information in their accounts, but may target the children based on broader demographic information including their location — that is, city and state — and the content the child tends to watch.

What’s more, the profile allows the app to tailor experiences to children’s specific ages and allows parents better monitor what content children watch, Google said in a blog post. This is particularly pertinent as YouTube struggles to squash violent and inappropriate content marketed to children on the app.

Critics say children should have less screen time

But Golin said children’s accounts do little to stop this problem, and that suggesting more videos to children isn’t the answer. “If you’re creating an app for children, you shouldn’t be recommending additional content to begin with,” he said. “Kids should be watching for a limited amount of time and shouldn’t be bombarded with all of these choices that will be tempting them based on what they like.”

Google disagrees, and said the YouTube kids’ app encourages parents to take responsibility for their children’s screen time. “The YouTube kids’ app offers various parental controls that allows timers to be set for children’s screen time,” she said. “The app also allows parents to block videos and set different parental controls for different children.”

According to a 2016 recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 should be restricted from screen time completely while children ages 2 to 5 should get only up to one hour a day of quality programming. Children ages 6 and above should have screen time strictly monitored so they can get adequate sleep and outdoor time.

Disney DIS, +0.29%   was recently sued in a class-action lawsuit for collecting data on children under the age of 13 without parental consent and selling it to advertisers. Disney said the suit was based on a “misunderstanding” of the legal principles of COPPA and that it “look[s] forward to defending this action in court.”

Source: YouTube’s new profiles for children have privacy experts very concerned – MarketWatch

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