Trinity Mount Ministries

Thursday, September 19, 2019

YouTube’s Fine & Child Safety Online

YouTube for targeting adverts at children as if they were adults shows progress is being made on both sides of the Atlantic, writes Steve Wood of the Information Commissioner’s Office

The conclusion of the Federal Trade Commission investigation into YouTube’s gathering of young people’s personal information (‘Woeful’ YouTube fine for child data breach, 5 September) shows progress is being made on both sides of the Atlantic towards a more children-friendly internet. The company was accused of treating younger users’ data in the same way it treats adult users’ data.

YouTube’s journey sounds similar to many other online services: it began targeting adults, found more and more children were using its service, and so continued to take commercial advantage of that. But the allegation is it didn’t treat those young people differently, gathering their data and using it to target content and adverts at them as though they were adult users.

In response to the FTC investigation, the company is now making changes, and we expect that other major platforms are planning to learn from this complaint. That impetus for change is mirrored in the UK, where the Information Commissioner’s Office code to ensure online services are better designed with children in mind will be with the secretary of state in November. This will ensure a privacy-by-default approach is taken by online services likely to be accessed by children, including standards that will require features such as location tracking to be switched off by default. It is welcome progress. The internet has evolved in a way that makes too little distinction between adults and children. Few parents would disagree that change is necessary.

Steve Wood
Deputy commissioner, ICO

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