Google Presses Court To Nix Children's Privacy Claims

Google is pressing a federal appeals court to reconsider a recent decision that reinstated class-action privacy claims brought by parents of young YouTube users.

In papers filed late Wednesday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Google argues that the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act -- which sets out national children's privacy rules -- precludes the parents' claims.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act “contains an express preemption clause,” Google writes, referring to a provision that overrides state laws. The federal law also doesn't allow individuals to bring private claims; instead, the law tasks the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general with enforcement.

Google's papers come in a battle dating to 2019, when California resident Nicole Hubbard sued YouTube and various channel operators on behalf of her child. She alleged in a class-action complaint that her 5-year-old child watched YouTube channels aimed at young children, and that YouTube and other companies wrongly collected tracking data.



Her complaint, 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 Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting data from viewers younger than 13, without parental consent.

Among other claims, the parents said the alleged data collection amounted to “intrusion upon seclusion” -- a privacy claim that can be brought in California, and that involves “highly offensive” conduct.

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California threw out the lawsuit, ruling that the gist of the claims stemmed from the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act -- which only allows the Federal Trade Commission and state officials to bring enforcement actions.

Late last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed Freeman's decision, ruling that the federal privacy law doesn't prevent individuals from bringing “parallel” claims rooted in state law.

Google is now urging the 9th Circuit to reconsider that decision, arguing that the ruling “ignored” the wording of the federal law, as well as “its structure and purpose.”

The company adds that the panel's ruling “will have far-reaching consequences.”

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act “established a uniform nationwide standard governing the personal information online service providers can legally collect from children under 13, a standard critical to parents, children, and organizations that create and deliver online content and services for children,” Google writes.

The correct interpretation of the law “is thus exceptionally important, including to the many technology companies that operate nationwide,” the company adds.

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