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Is YouTube watching your kids?

Kids love watching videos on YouTube. But what parents may not realize is that data on their viewing habits could be gathered, analyzed, and then used to sell ads. Now a collection of nearly two dozen advocacy groups -- including Consumers Union -- say Google, which owns the site, may be violating a law meant protect the privacy of children online.

YouTube’s terms of service specify that the site is for users 13 and older. Google says it offers a YouTube Kids App that’s fully COPPA compliant, but not all parents are using it. According to one report, 80-percent of children between the ages of 6 and 12 use regular YouTube daily. Advocates say the company knows it.

22 advocacy groups banded together to file a complaint with the FTC. They estimate Google has collected data on nearly 25 million children -- without their parent’s explicit consent. Consumers Union says parents probably don’t even realize it’s happening. If the FTC chooses to investigate and discovers violations, they could fine Google about $41,000 per individual violation.

A spokesperson for YouTube sent a statement to Consumer Reports saying that protecting kids and families is a top priority. They are currently reviewing the complaint and will “evaluate if there are things we can do to improve.” They also encourage parents to use the YouTube Kids app which is specifically designed for children.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.