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Privacy Groups to FTC: Where's Our Google Complaint

Privacy groups are pressing the Federal Trade Commission for the status of their complaint against Google.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, and their counsel at the Institute for Public Representation were among a host of groups that filed a complaint against Google back in April, asserting that while YouTube is the most popular online platform for kids, from which the company profits, Google asserts that the site is not for children in arguing that it does not have to be compliant with the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Related: Pew Says Majority Turning to YouTube for Some Kids Content

The groups, in a letter to FTC chair Joe Simons and the other commissioners, sought the status of that complaint and pointed to a Pew study released last week that found that while YouTube asserts their platform is not for kids under 13, 81% of parents say they let their young child watch YouTube videos, with 34% saying they did so regularly.

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While the groups said they had met with FTC staffers in May about the complaint, they have heard and seen nothing since.

"While more than six months have passed since we conferred with the FTC," they wrote, "the privacy of millions of children visiting YouTube is compromised every single day. On behalf of the 22 consumer and privacy advocacy organizations which signed our complaint, we convey our hope that the FTC will act soon to protect these children."

In that April complaint, the groups were seeking potentially tens of billions of dollars in fines for what they say has been the company’s collection and sharing of children’s information in violation of federal law.

[P]rotecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us,” said a YouTube spokesperson at the time, who added that they would vet the complaint in thoroughly in case there were things they could improve on, but said "Because YouTube is not for children, we’ve invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.