YouTube Google Privacy Class Action Says Kids’ Info Collected Without Parent Consent

YouTube and its parent companies Google and Alphabet LLC have been named in a new multistate class action lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

In 1999 Congress enacted COPPA with the goal of protecting children’s privacy while they are on the internet. Under COPPA, developers of child-focused apps, and any third parties working with these app developers, cannot lawfully obtain the personal information of children under 13 years of age without first obtaining verifiable consent from their parents.

Plaintiff Sirdonia Lashay Manigault-Johnson filed the YouTube Google privacy class action lawsuit in South Carolina Federal court last week on behalf of herself, her child, and parents of children, who while viewing online videos from YouTube, and its parent companies Google and Alphabet, had their personal information collected for commercial purposes.

It’s no secret that children have become a lucrative audience for advertising via YouTube. In fact, its been dubbed the “new children’s TV”. This online advertising marketing is set to grow to $1.2 billion by 2019 and YouTube accounts for over 30 percent of kids’ online time. This obviously creates a major opportunity for advertisers in this sector.

In Manigault-Johnson’s case, she created an account on YouTube for her minor child, identified as R.R., to view on a mobile device. According to the 20-page complaint, during the time R.R. viewed videos on YouTube, “one or more of the defendants collected, disclosed, or used personal information” of R.R. for commercial gain.

“Large portions of YouTube [are directed to] children and Google has actual knowledge that YouTube is collecting personal information from children,” the YouTube Google privacy class action lawsuit states.

Manigault-Johnson says she was never asked for her verifiable parental consent in any form or at any time, nor was she given direct notice – as required by COPPA – regarding YouTube, Google, or Alphabet’s practices with regard to collecting, using, and disclosing her child’s personal information.

She is seeking to represent a multistate Class and California subclass of all persons who are younger than the age of 13 or were younger than the age of 13 when they viewed content on or through the defendants’ apps or websites and whose personal information was collected without parental consent.

The YouTube Google privacy class action lawsuit comes just a week after nearly a dozen privacy, consumer, and child advocacy groups asked to the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into YouTube’s alleged practice of illegally collecting data on children under 13 years old for advertising purposes without parental consent.

Manigault-Johnson is represented by Akim A. Anastopoulo, Eric M. Poulin, Roy T. Willey IV, and Matthew Nall of Anastopoulo Law Firm LLC.

The YouTube Google Privacy Class Action Lawsuit is Manigault-Johnson v. Google, LLC., et al., Case No. 2:18-cv-01032-BHH, in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division.

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