By Swee Leng Harris and Alaphia Zoyab

Ground-breaking new complaint challenges YouTube’s abuse of children’s privacy

For the first time, the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code could be used to protect children’s privacy.

Duncan McCann, a parent of three young children, who has long campaigned against the abuse of young people’s data by Big Tech companies, has filed a complaint with the UK’s data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), against YouTube. McCann’s complaint highlights the invasive data collection by YouTube of children’s location, viewing habits, and preferences. The complaint alleges that the tech giant surveils and uses the data of nearly 5 million British children, thereby breaking the law and violating children’s rights to data protection.

The complaint calls on the ICO to require that all of the data unlawfully collected be deleted. The complaint further raises questions about remedy in relation to the machine learning algorithms that are trained on unlawfully gathered data, which could be rolled back or deleted entirely.

As part of Luminate’s work in Europe to hold the Big Tech companies and social media platforms accountable, we are funding the costs of the complaint.  Big Tech’s surveillance-based business model is undermining children’s right to privacy, making the online world less safe for everyone.

If the ICO takes action against YouTube following the complaint, it will be an important development in the efforts of regulators to enforce the law and rein in Big Tech, alongside recent regulatory decisions such as those against Facebook  and Google.

Find out more here about the work the Luminate Strategic Initiatives team is doing in Europe and beyond to address digital threats to democracy through strategic litigation, grant-making, operational initiatives, campaigns, and advocacy.