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Are YouTube Advertisers Inadvertently Harvesting Data From Millions of Children?

The New York Times [read free]: YouTube Ads May Have Led to Online Tracking of Children, Research Says. “YouTube’s advertising practices on kids’ channels could have resulted in companies tracking children across the web, a report said.This year, BMO, a Canadian bank, was looking for Canadian adults to apply for a credit card. So the bank’s advertising agency ran a YouTube campaign using an ad-targeting system from Google that employs artificial intelligence to pinpoint ideal customers. But Google, which owns YouTube, also showed the ad to a viewer in the United States on a Barbie-themed children’s video on the “Kids Diana Show,” a YouTube channel for preschoolers whose videos have been watched more than 94 billion times. When that viewer clicked on the ad, it led to BMO’s website, which tagged the user’s browser with tracking software from Google, Meta, Microsoft and other companies, according to new research from Adalytics, which analyzes ad campaigns for brands. As a result, leading tech companies could have tracked children across the internet, raising concerns about whether they were undercutting a federal privacy law, the report said. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, requires children’s online services to obtain parental consent before collecting personal data from users under age 13 for purposes like ad targeting…”

Adylitics: “…For the data collection phase of our research, Adalytics enlisted the help of Antonio Torres from publisher quality intelligence firm Observational, open-source ad placement data was manually collected from across web and mobile versions of the YouTube app. During the course of this study, several small and Fortune 500 brands were observed as having had their YouTube ads served on channels meant for kids, in some cases in direct contravention of their ad campaign targeting inputs which disavowed “made for kids” content. Google itself – despite having knowledge that a consumer was viewing “made for kids” YouTube videos – such as “ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes for Babies” – was observed serving ads on those ‘made for kids’ videos for Google’s own products & services. If a toddler or baby accidentally clicks on Google product ads, Google’s ad product website proceeds to set ad targeting & personalization cookies on the child’s device, and put the child into a “re-targeting” audience pool for future ad personalization in Google’s own product advertising campaigns…”

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