Marsha Blackburn Calls for Investigation of Google over YouTube Ads Enabling the Tracking of Children

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, speaks during the Conservative Poli
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google-owned YouTube’s advertising practices on children’s channels have come under scrutiny for potentially enabling companies to track children across the web, raising concerns about children’s online privacy. Sen. Marsha Blackburn is calling on the FTC to investigate the tech giant for possible violations of children’s privacy.

The New York Times reports that YouTube may have engaged in advertising practices on kids’ channels that could have resulted in companies tracking children across the web, potentially violating children’s privacy rights.

schoolkids using smartphones

schoolkids using smartphones ( dolgachov/Getty)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is happy

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is happy (Boris Streubel /Getty)

In 2019, YouTube faced a $170 million fine related to allegations that it had collected personal information from children. The fine was a response to claims that YouTube had profited from using children’s data to target them with ads. Following the fine, YouTube announced that it would limit the collection of viewers’ data and stop serving personalized ads on children’s videos.

However, recent findings have reignited concerns about YouTube’s advertising on children’s content. A Canadian bank, BMO, ran an ad campaign on YouTube targeting Canadian adults for a credit card. The ad was also shown on a Barbie-themed children’s video on the “Kids Diana Show,” a popular YouTube channel for preschoolers. When a viewer clicked on the ad, it led to BMO’s website, which tagged the user’s browser with tracking software from various tech companies, including Google, Facebook (now known as Meta), and Microsoft.

This practice could have allowed top tech companies to monitor children’s online activity, possibly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA requires children’s online services to obtain parental consent before collecting personal data from users under age 13 for purposes like ad targeting.

The report’s findings have prompted Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) to send a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), urging it to investigate whether Google and YouTube had violated COPPA. The senators expressed concern that the companies may have tracked children and served them targeted ads without parental consent, facilitating the vast collection and distribution of children’s data.

The senators wrote: “This behavior by YouTube and Google is estimated to have impacted hundreds of thousands, to potentially millions, of children across the United States.”

The report also identified more than 300 brands’ ads for adult products, like cars, on nearly 100 YouTube videos designated as “made for kids.” It found several YouTube ads with violent content on children’s channels. These findings have raised questions about the appropriateness of certain ads on children’s content and the potential risks to children’s privacy.

Read more at the New York Times here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan

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