Image Source: Getty Images, BBC News
It is no secret in the modern digital age that tracking our data while online is happening. Many describe this process so sophisticated and in depth that data collectors essentially can create a digital identity of all online consumers from the information they are capable of collecting. The advertising industry is no stranger to these kind of tracking methods often paying large amounts of money to receive information from data mining companies in order to better target consumers on the web.
Recently, YouTube and a multitude of some of its biggest channel operators including Hasbro, Mattel, and Cartoon Network are being hit with a new lawsuit claiming these organizations have illegally tracked young children to serve them with targeted ads on the platform.
California resident Nichole Hubbard filed a class action complaint last week claiming her child who was a frequent consumer of Hasbro’s “My Little Pony Office” on YouTube has fallen victim to this tracking.
“Google and the channel operators collected my son’s personal information for the purposes of tracking, profiling, and targeting him with advertisements” (Hubbard, U.S. District Court San Jose).
This is far from the first lawsuit filed by concerned parents claiming that giant media companies and data collectors have actively and “fraudulently” tried to hide their acts of tracking children of a certain age and using their data to target them with advertisements on popular platforms online. Researchers have expressed their findings that companies like Google use their algorithms to collect “ill-gotten” data from billions of children’s YouTube video views.
These allegations if proven true are a direct violation of The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which “prohibits companies from knowingly collecting personal information — including web-browsing data that is used to target ads — from children under 13, without their parents’ permission” (FTC). Google has been a long time promoter of YouTube to children’s companies such as Mattel and Hasbro as a top platform to reach the eyes of young children.
While the investigation is ongoing, two months ago Google was involved in a similar lawsuit when they agreed to pay 170 million to settle allegations against the FTC and New York Attorney General when YouTube was found guilty for collecting data from children under the age of 13 on the platform.
Personally, I believe these lawsuits and arising issues are far from over in the new digital age that is arising, especially towards specific platforms that some field executives deem to be the most powerful influences in the world. Big data and the concerns behind it are only growing as countless companies are finding more precise and intrusive ways to not only target specific users, but sell it for high profit to third party vendors looking to use strategic advertising.
We are at a point in digital media and data information where a breaking point is on the rise. We essentially have two specific identities in the modern era that will follow us forever which is our physical entity, and our identity online. Media companies and data collectors are recognizing the ways they can now reach and impact our lives through the online network, therefore extremely strict and proper regulations/penalties must be set in motion by our governments to essentially save humans basic rights especially when it comes to children.