A young girl holds a stuffed hedgehog while sitting on the floor watching something on an ipad - youtube privacy

YouTube is the target of a multibillion-pound lawsuit over the tech giant’s alleged repeated violations of the U.K. and European data laws that protect children under 13. It is the first class action lawsuit in Europe on behalf of young children.

The class-action-style lawsuit cites breaches of the Data Protection Act by pinpointing approximately 5 million children and collecting their data for advertisers, according to Tech Crunch.  

The representative plaintiff in the YouTube privacy class action lawsuit is tech privacy expert Duncan McCann. McCann is a father of three children 13 and younger who use YouTube.

According to Tech Crunch, McCann claims his children have had their private data harvested and selective ads have targeted them.

Under the U.K.’s Data Protection Act, minors are restricted from giving consent for their data to be harvested if they are 13 or younger. According to the class-action-style lawsuit, YouTube privacy did not require parental consent, either.

McCann also alleges that YouTube has no realistic requirements for user age, nor does the platform make sufficient attempts to restrict children’s use, Business Wire reported.

The class-action-style lawsuit against YouTube is being represented by law firms Hausfeld and Foxglove and seeks more than £2.5 billion in damages, according to Tech Crunch. 

Young girl lies on stomach watching something on a tablet - Youtube privacyAccording to the law firms, this is the first legal action initiated against YouTube on behalf of children under 13; it is also one of the largest.

Last month, a similar lawsuit was launched against Oracle for law violations regarding cookie tracking.

If the legal action against YouTube is successful, millions of children under 13 who use the platform will receive potentially hundreds of pounds in damages for the breaches of the Data Protection Act. 

The BBC reported McCann believes YouTube privacy standards are breaching the Data Protection Act and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations.

“When the internet first emerged, we used to be worried about how children used the internet,” McCann told the BBC. “That is still a problem, but now it’s a two-way street. We need to focus on how the internet is using our children, and ask ourselves if we’re comfortable with them becoming a product for these digital platforms?”

McCann alleges the YouTube child privacy violations have been occurring since the Data Protection Act was enforced as a new law in May 2018.

A YouTube spokesperson said the company does not comment on forthcoming legal action and added that the website is not meant to be used by children under the age of 13, according to the BBC.

YouTube asserts it does not target young users, but its popularity with children beats that of British TV channels. YouTube routinely has videos that are attractive to younger viewers, including cartoon programmes, toy reviews and more. 

Business Wire reported that Ofcom showed 75% of 5- to 15-year-olds watch YouTube, as well as 50% of 3- to 4-year-olds. 

“Privacy and data protection laws are there to protect everyone; not least children, who, unquestionably, deserve a higher level of protection,” Hausfeld partner Lesley Hannah said, according to Business Wire. “Yet, YouTube operates in a way that breaks those laws. Google needs to be held to account and pay compensation to all families who use YouTube in England and Wales.”

She added: “Schools, charities and millions of small businesses have to comply with data protection laws and the GDPR every day. There is no reason why a company with the power and financial resources of Google should not also respect the law.”

Do you think YouTube privacy standards should be stricter when it comes to child users? Should YouTube implement user age limits or should parents be responsible for media consumed by children? Let us know what your opinion is in the comments.

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