YouTube's new children privacy practices: Four things you should know

On Monday, YouTube said it was beginning to introduce changes to address regulators’ concerns and better protect children.


In September, Google agreed to pay a $170 million fine and make privacy changes as regulators said that its YouTube platform had illegally harvested children’s personal information and used it to profit by targeting them with ads. The penalty and changes were part of an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general of New York, which had accused YouTube of violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

On Monday, YouTube said it was beginning to introduce changes to address regulators’ concerns and better protect children.

Here is what you need to know about those changes.

 YouTubes new children privacy practices: Four things you should know

The YouTube app logo is seen on a smartphone. Reuters

Limited collection of digital data

YouTube said that starting Monday, it would begin to limit the collection and use of personal information from people who watched children’s videos, no matter the age of the viewer. Federal law prohibits online services aimed at children younger than 13 from collecting the personal information of those young users without parental consent.

YouTube said it had also turned off or limited some features on children’s videos tied to personal information. These include comments and live-chat features, as well as the ability to save videos to a playlist.

Changes to ads and recommendations

YouTube will no longer show ads on children’s videos that are targeted at viewers based on their web-browsing or other online activity data. Instead, the company said, it may now show ads based on the context of what people are viewing.

YouTube said viewers who watched a video made for children on its platform would now be more likely to see recommendations for other children’s videos.

New requirement for YouTube producers

In September, YouTube said it would require all video producers on its platform to designate their videos as made for children or not made for children. In November, it introduced a new setting to help producers flag children’s content, a designation that signals YouTube to limit data collection on those videos. The video service said that it was also using artificial intelligence to help identify children’s content and that it could override a video producer’s categorisation if its system detected a mistake.

Why the YouTube changes matter

YouTube is one of the most popular platforms for children. Some animated videos on YouTube channels aimed at younger children — like Cocomelon Nursery Rhymes and ChuChu TV — have been viewed more than 1 billion times.

The platform’s new limits on data-mining send a signal to other popular sites offering children’s content that they also may be subject to the federal children’s online privacy law.

Musical.ly, a wildly popular video social network now known as TikTok, also had to pay a fine last year to settle FTC charges that it had illegally collected children’s personal information.

Natasha Singer c.2020 The New York Times Company

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