Appeals Court Urged To Reinstate Children's Privacy Lawsuit Against YouTube

Attorneys for young YouTube viewers are pressing an appeals court to revive claims that the video service, along with channel operators including Hasbro and the Cartoon Network, violated California privacy law by by tracking children for advertising purposes.

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California dismissed the children's class-action complaint last year.

She ruled that the children's privacy claims were covered by the federal Children's Privacy Protection Act, which only allows the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to bring enforcement actions. That law prohibits online companies from collecting personal data from children younger than 13, without their parents' permission.

Google recently urged the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold that decision, arguing that the claims are precluded by the federal children's privacy law.

The children's lawyers counter in their most recent appellate filing that their claims are only “parallel” to federal law, and therefore not overriden by it.

The users' claims “are based on Google’s violations of their traditional, preexisting state law rights,” class counsel argues in papers filed Monday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Specifically, attorneys for the children say the lawsuit centers on a California law regarding “intrusion upon seclusion” -- a broad privacy concept that involves “highly offensive” conduct.

They add that the federal children's privacy law was never intended to deprive children “of longstanding state law protections.”

The battle dates to 2019, when California resident Nicole Hubbard sued YouTube and various companies that had channels on the video platform -- including Hasbro, the Cartoon Network, Mattel, and DreamWorks -- on behalf of her child.

She alleged in a class-action complaint that her 5-year-old child watched YouTube channels aimed at children -- including Ryan ToysReview, Hasbro's “My Little Pony Official,” and CookieSwirlC.

Her lawsuit, later joined by other parents, came around two months after Google agreed to pay $170 million to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General that YouTube violated the federal children's privacy law by collecting data from viewers younger than 13.

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