Child advocates: YouTube ads spying on kids

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Child advocates: YouTube ads spying on kids
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While many of us have perhaps clicked on a digital ad when browsing the web, less is known about how children react to the constant stream of advertisements that pop up in front of them when they’re online.

Many of these ads record your IP address and gather other info about you, such as what else you clicked on and how long you watched. But a coalition of consumer and privacy advocacy groups believe that such advertising shouldn’t be child’s play.

Group: YouTube ads are violating the privacy of children

On Monday, the group was expected to file a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission to get the agency to investigate the popular site YouTube. The video platform, which is owned by Google, is violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which expressly states that kids’ data shouldn’t be tracked,  the groups claim in the complaint, according to NBC News.

If an investigation is launched by the FTC, it is likely that Google is going to argue that it can’t be sure that adults aren’t watching their content with children in the room or that young kids aren’t viewing with their guardians’ consent, which are both legally murky areas.

“It’s laughable if Google execs claim that they think the parent is in charge of the online viewing behaviors of tens of millions of children,” Jeff Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told NBC. The group is one of several that helped file the complaint. “Children are watching this content by themselves. Google is trying to look the other way.”

Much has been made recently about the power of online ads and their effect on those that view them. Brouhahas over advertising have snared several online companies, including Facebook, which is currently embroiled in a data scandal.

YouTube’s terms of service, like other social media sites, stipulate that users be at least age 13. But it also allows advertisers to target whatever segments they want via keywords, Chester claims.

“They created a successful model monetizing kids’ data on YouTube and really did not want to think about the consequences,” he was quoted as saying.

The tech industry is at a crossroads when it comes to balancing privacy and creating useful devices and content for children. For every success in the kids’ tech space, there seems to be a report about a hacker being able to break into the system and track a child’s movements.

Child advocates in Europe late last year urged parents to destroy kid-marketed smartwatches because of their ability to spy on children.

Money expert Clark Howard constantly warns about the dangers of identity theft, a call that has taken on new urgency in light of the Equifax data breach. But because of the prowess of criminal hackers, not only grown-ups but children also could be impacted.

The FTC lists on its website a number of warning signals that parents need to be aware of in case they suspect suspicious activity connected to their child’s personal information. Here are a few of them:

How to know if your child’s ID has been stolen

  • If a company sends any correspondence addressed to your child — especially bills, products or services — follow up with them to investigate how their information was shared.
  • Close to your child’s 16th birthday, check whether he or she has a credit report in their name. If you catch theft or fraud activity around this time, your child’s ability to apply for a loan or tuition later is less likely to be hindered.
  • If you do find evidence of ID theft or fraud, call the three major credit reporting agencies and ask them to remove all accounts, inquiries, and collection notices from any file associated with your child’s personal info.

Presented with the ill effects of abuse and the inability to safeguard users’ information, tech companies have come under intense scrutiny in recent months. We told you about how people have been sounding the alarm about YouTube content geared toward children. Find out more about what to do if you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen.

RELATED: The Clark Howard identity Theft guide

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer.  You can reach Craig at craig@clark.com
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