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YouTube limits data collection on content for kids

In the wake of a regulatory penalty in 2019, Alphabet Inc.'s YouTube LLC is making good on its promise to change the way it handles content aimed at children.

The online video service said in a Jan. 6 blog post that going forward, all creators will be required to designate whether their content was made for kids in YouTube Studio. Additionally, data from anyone watching a video designated as made for kids will be treated as coming from a child, regardless of the age of the user. This means the company will limit data collection and use on videos made for kids strictly to what is needed to support service operation. The company will also stop serving personalized ads on children's content entirely.

The announcement comes after YouTube and its parent Google LLC agreed in September 2019 to pay $170 million to settle allegations from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney general that the companies violated children's online privacy rules. At the time, the regulators said in a complaint that the companies violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, by collecting personal information from viewers of "child-directed channels" without first notifying parents and gaining consent.

As part of the settlement, in addition to the fine, Google and YouTube promised a series of changes. In November 2019, YouTube released an audience setting to help creators indicate whether their content was made for kids. The company also uses machine learning to identify this content and will override a creator designation if abuse or error is detected.