Google was recently handed a $172 million penalty from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as part of a settlement involving the privacy of children’s data on YouTube. The settlement – the largest imposed for violations related to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) – included new rules for conduct by the video site, and those changes to YouTube and YouTube Kids are expected to implement in the next four months. Regarding the changes, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said "Responsibility is our number one priority at YouTube, and nothing is more important than protecting kids and their privacy.”
The changes to children’s programming on YouTube will primarily be related to data collection and more stringent guidelines around content and content creators.
YouTube Changes To Data Collection Will Address Privacy Issues
Any children’s content viewed on YouTube will be treated as if it is being watched by a child, regardless of the actual age of the user. This means data collection will be limited across all viewing of children’s content. Wojcicki said, “In order to identify content made for kids, creators will be required to tell us when their content falls in this category, and we’ll also use machine learning to find videos that clearly target young audiences, for example those that have an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys or games.” Personalized ads, comments and notifications will also no longer be available on children’s content.
Improvements To YouTube Kids Are Intended To Keep Parents And Kids Happy
YouTube will be refining their content on YouTube Kids, allowing for content parents may feel safer allowing their kids to watch. With these changes, there will be improvements to the YouTube app, which will be advertised to parents via an information campaign expected to roll out at the time the other YouTube Kids changes will be implemented, and YouTube Kids will now be available on desktop for more family viewing. 81% of parents let their kids 11 and under watch YouTube, and often these parents aren’t happy with what their kids are watching. A more concerted effort by YouTube Kids to gate children’s content could resolve parent frustration related to their kids YouTube habits.
Working With Children’s Content Creators Should Improve YouTube Offerings
The four-month timeline, in addition to giving YouTube the time to roll out the changes, is also an adjustment period for creators who are concerned about the impact the YouTube Kids changes will have on their bottom lines, with creator revenue largely generated by ads. Many creators also worry they could be met with FTC fines, if the commission continues to crack down on children’s content. Shion Kaji, whose son Ryan is the star of Ryan ToysReview, which has more than 21 million subscribers said, "The new policy may impact the YouTube Kids space ecosystem, but kids' safety should be a priority."
Additionally, over the next three years YouTube will disburse a $100 million fund toward the creation of “thoughtful, original children’s content on YouTube and YouTube Kids globally.”
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