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Can Youtube legally target children under 13 with ads?

Apr 11, 2018 · 2 min read

Can Youtube legally target children under 13 with ads?

A collection of consumer advocacy groups has accused Youtube of collecting the personal data of children under the age of 13 in an effort to target them with ads. When done without parents’ consent, this is illegal in the U.S.

Youtube already offers a separate service for children called Youtube Kids. To use that app, parents must consent to have Youtube target their children with ads. What, then, is all of the controversy about?

The facts

The terms of use on Youtube’s main site claim that when someone uses their site, they certify that they are 13 years of age or older and that they consent to have their data collected to serve them ads. However, Youtube still hosts videos intended for viewers under 13 years of age and serves targeted ads on those videos as well. This would suggest that they are knowingly collecting the data of viewers under 13 years of age without their parents’ consent (parents only give their consent in the children’s version of Youtube).

Not only do they host videos for children, they also package them for advertisers. The Google Preferred service – which presents selected channels for advertisers to target certain groups – offers a Parenting & Family category with many videos geared towards very young viewers. Any video featuring cartoon characters and nursery rhymes is likely to gather young viewers’ data.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – or COPPA – establishes what an advertiser must do to legally collect the data of children under the age of 13. It is not yet clear whether Youtube’s services meet all of those conditions.

“Google has been continually growing its child-directed service in the United States and all over the world without any kind of acknowledgment of this law and its responsibilities,” Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told the New York Times. “It’s living in a world of online fiction and denied that it’s serving children.”

Parents’ reactions

The consumer advocacy letter is a great example of the concern many parents have about shielding their children from being bombarded by ads. Unfortunately, ad blocker tools don’t work for every free online video service. Your best bet is to use a paid online video streaming service that doesn’t show its users ads. Many such services often provide parental control features as well so you can monitor what your children watch.

If you want some broader tips on how to keep your children safe online, click here to check out our blog post!


Daniel Markuson
Daniel Markuson successVerified author

Daniel is a digital privacy enthusiast and an Internet security expert. As the blog editor at NordVPN, Daniel loves to serve up generous helpings of news, stories, and tips to help people stay private and secure.


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