A Massachusetts mother of two young children is suing Google for allegedly tracking her children's YouTube viewing habits for ad purposes.
Google “engaged in unfair acts ... by collecting personal information, such as persistent identifiers, from viewers it knew were children under the age of thirteen, without providing notice to or obtaining verifiable consent from the children’s parents,” Paula Ridenti alleges in a class-action complaint brought late last week in federal court in Boston.
Ridenti says her two young children, identified only by the initials R.A. and R.M.A., “have consistently over the last four years viewed channels on YouTube directed to children.”
The complaint draws heavily on the Federal Trade Commission's recent prosecution of Google for allegedly violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal information from YouTube users under 13, without their parents' permission. The FTC's 2013 COPPA regulations provide that persistent cookies and device identifiers fall within the law's definition of personal data.
The FTC alleged YouTube hosts “numerous channels” directed to children, and that Google promoted YouTube to marketers including Mattel and Hasbro as a “top destination” for kids. In September, Google agreed to pay $170 million to settle the complaint.
COPPA doesn't allow individuals to sue over violations, but Ridenti essentially argues that Massachusetts law allows private individuals to sue over activity the Federal Trade Commission has deemed “unfair.” She contends that the FTC's decision to prohibit companies from tracking young children without parental permission shows the agency has deemed the practice unfair.
Google defeated a similar lawsuit last year in federal court in South Carolina. The company, along with several marketers, is currently facing a comparable complaint in San Jose, California.
Google and the other companies have urged U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman to dismiss that matter.