Google Debunks Controversy Surrounding YouTube Ads and Kids

Google has responded to controversy surrounding accusations that YouTube's ads could lead to children being tracked online....
Google Debunks Controversy Surrounding YouTube Ads and Kids
Written by Staff
  • Google has responded to controversy surrounding accusations that YouTube’s ads could lead to children being tracked online.

    According to The New York Times, Adalytics released research it says raised questions about whether YouTube was complying with federal law, alleging that ad campaigns on children-oriented channels opened the door for children to be tracked. In their reporting, the Times made it clear that there was no evidence Google and YouTube were violating the law, or a 2019 agreement with the FTC.

    Dan Taylor, Google’s VP of Global Ads, has authored a blog post to debunk Adalytics’ claims:

    At Google, we work tirelessly to provide a safer experience for kids and teens online, and we build our products with this mission in mind. Yesterday, Adalytics released a deeply flawed and uninformed report about how we manage advertising on made for kids content on YouTube, and our privacy policies for people under the age of 18 across our platforms.

    This research comes on the heels of a previous inaccurate report by them from earlier this summer about our video partner inventory. It was subsequently debunked by multiple independent third parties, including DoubleVerify, IAS and Pixability.

    Despite its length, this new report failed to substantiate claims that we are in violation of government regulations, such as COPPA, or our own policies around ads personalization. The New York Times in their reporting on the study clearly noted, “There is no evidence that Google and YouTube violated their 2019 agreement with the F.T.C.”

    Taylor also highlighted some of the measures the company takes to comply with the law and protect children:

    S ince January 2020, YouTube has treated personal information from anyone watching “made for kids” content on the platform as coming from a child, regardless of the age of the viewer. This means we prohibit ads personalization. Additionally, we do not allow the use of third-party trackers in advertisements served on made for kids content on YouTube.

    This report falsely claims that the presence of cookies indicates a privacy breakdown. The opposite is true, and the report fails to show otherwise.

    The company also restricts the type of ads children can see:

    Whether you’re in the YouTube Kids app, viewing made for kids content on YouTube or signed-in with a supervised account, we have strict policies on the type of ad content that we allow. While we allow advertising to support creators who make high-quality content for kids, these guidelines limit the types of products and services that can run next to their content. For example, we restrict ads for things like dating apps and food and beverage products, as well as ads with violent or graphic content. These restrictions are similar to what is employed by other industries, like television, who have their own guidelines for ad content that runs on kids channels or content.

    Taylor says the company is committed to protecting children, and will continue to invest heavily in that endeavor:

    We’ve invested a great deal of time and resources to protect kids on our platforms, especially when it comes to the ads they see – from building kid-specific products like YouTube Kids or supervised accounts, to launching a global restriction on personalized ads and age-sensitive ad categories for all users under 18.

    We welcome responsible research around our products, and we always appreciate the opportunity to speak with advertisers, users, regulators and third-party groups about the rules that govern our platform. But not only did Adalytics repeatedly ignore our offers to meet with them, but also their report — either accidentally or intentionally — draws misleading conclusions based on a deeply inaccurate understanding of our privacy practices. While we have serious issues with this report, our first priority remains the same: to continue upholding our industry-leading protections for kids and teens across our products.

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