What You Need To Know About YouTube and COPPA

Jason Bourgeois
January 16, 2020

YouTube and COPPA have been in the news in the past couple of months for violation of privacy laws. Because COPPA is a law that effects everyone, even outside of America, we’ve broken the news down for you and explained why it might effect you and your business.

 

COPPA is an American legislation that has been in effect since  21st April 2000.

The Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, more commonly known as COPPA, is a law dealing with how websites, apps, and other online operators collect data and personal information from kids under the age of 13.

COPPA has a number of requirements, but some key ones are that tech companies making apps, websites, and online tools for kids under 13 must:

  • Provide notice and get parental consent before collecting information from kids;
  • Have a “clear and comprehensive” privacy policy;
  • Keep information they collect from kids confidential and secure.

To summarise, the main goal of the legislation is to “put parents in control of information collected online from children under 13.”

 

Why YouTube and COPPA has suddenly become big news:

In 2019, YouTube came under fire for the comment section on kids videos in their YouTube Kids app becoming messaging boards for adult content. In response to this, YouTube turned off the comments for the videos in this application.

On 4th September 2019, it was announced that Google and YouTube will pay $170,000,000 million for “alleged violations of Children’s privacy law”. The reason for this is because YouTube failed to differentiate between its two applications, YouTube and YouTube Kids. In YouTube’s privacy policy it clearly states that you have to be 13 and above to sign up to the website. YouTube Kids was created so that all child friendly content would be available but there would be amendments to advertisements and revenue.

The issue is that YouTube had never specified YouTube Kids when referring to children’s use of the platform. They have clearly stated when representatives meet with advertisers, “In fact, it’s the #1 website regularly visited by kids” and “YouTube is today’s leader in reaching children 6 -11 against top TV channels”, and “YouTube is unanimously voted as the favourite website of kids 2 – 12”.

The Rule allows for civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation. This means that for every video which is mislabeled or the the intended audience is disputed, the creator can be fined up to $42350 per video. This doesn’t mean every creator and every video will be fined this amount but it does mean any content can be deemed as inappropriate for children.

As a creator on YouTube, you have the option to label your videos/channel’s intended audience, whether it’s general audience, children, adults etc. If the FTC (Federal Trade Commission – the people behind COPPA) disagrees with the labels set, the creator is liable for the fine – not YouTube. The other issue with this is that anything that has been labeled as kids content on YouTube will lose its targeted ads, meaning less revenue for the content creators.

Despite COPPA being an American legislation “foreign-based websites and online services must comply with COPPA if they are directed to children in the United States, or if they knowingly collect personal information from children in the U.S.” This means any business, looking to advertisement, create media and distribute it in America, needs to be compliant with COPPA.

 

To conclude, if you are looking to create a YouTube channel for yourself with the intent of eventually gaining revenue, you’ll need to keep in mind what sort of content you’re uploading and who it’s going to be aimed at. For businesses looking to advertise on the platform, it’s worth keeping in mind where your adverts are going to be placed on the platform and who will be watching them. There will be more news to come from the YouTube and COPPA agreement as COPPA looks to specify its terms and work through YouTube as it surveys the videos on the platform.

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