back to article YouTube accused of aiming ads at kids after promising it wouldn't do that

YouTube has allegedly been tracking children online and targeting them with personalized ads, potentially in violation of its agreement with the FTC and of the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), according to a report released on Thursday. Google, which was sued in June for allegedly invading children's …

  1. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Sleazy ads

    The vast majority of ads I see on YT are scams or over-hyped products that can't work as advertised (damn physics). I haven't looked, but it must be super cheap to advertise on their platform. Are they truly marketing at kids? Any more than children's TV programming is loaded with ads for Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, expensive theme parks and over-priced toys?

    Ultimately, parents are responsible for their children and need to monitor their children's activities. If online portals are exploiting them, maybe it's time to learn how to use those parental lockouts. When I was growing up we had to ask if we could watch TV and tell dad what we wanted to watch. It was usually "yes" and Saturday morning cartoons were a given, but there could also be a "no" if there were still chores or homework to do. Reading was encouraged and there were plenty of books in the house along with Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Mechano, etc. between my friend next door and I, we must have had 20kgs of legos.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I see those ads too

      It is not a rocket science to say that online ad businesses are the main driver for multi-billion online scam and ultimately organized crime. Then the police has to spend taxpayers money to chase the scammers in offshores. But usually unsuccessfully.

      I noticed that scam ads show more frequently right before Google quarterly earnings. Maybe ad teams are chasing their targets and bonuses. No wonder someone called Google a money printer. Scam has always been lucrative.

      Australia has put a great initiative to force ad platforms to maintain public libraries of online ads. I wish one day to see the stats on scam ads and clicks.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Sleazy ads

      Great, we've waxed lyrical about the 70s and 80s again, as always happens when this subject is brought up.

      Nowadays schools push chromebooks so they have to be online to do homework. And how do you police them when they're on the Internet doing their homework, by not giving them a mobile and watching sitting next to them while they use the chromebook which oddly enough are designed to be always online all the time but are oddly remiss when it comes to parental controls for school-administered devices?

      And even if you did do that (which is not a good thing to do when they're teenagers because if you do that to them at that age then they know you're implicitly saying you don't trust them), how would that stop Google, Facebook, et al targeting them for advertising? Every website builds up an advertising profile on everyone. Yes, commentards here all run a Pi-hole but that's not a universal solution.

      And then they'll go to a friend's house or use a friend's phone and do everything they want anyway.

      So, social media sites need to pull their weight instead of turning teenagers into the next credulous MAGA generation.

      About the only thing I've been successful at is stressing that if it's on the Internet it's probably bullshit and you need to take whatever it is with a truck-full of salt, I think (I hope) the message has got through.

    3. DrXym

      Re: Sleazy ads

      I've turned off personalized ads and typically my ads are:

      1. Some generic national campaign for some product or another.

      2. Dross - dating sites, lawyer personal injury BS etc.

      3. Scam products invented by "2 maverick engineers in the field of X created a groundbreaking Y after hundreds of prototypes and its set to disrupt the major players" which is just some crap you can find on Aliexpress - ab exercisers, mini fan heaters, crap security cams etc.

      4. Fake Elon Musk talking about amazing investment opportunity which is actually a scam. I've noticed a disturbing number of deepfakes using AI to generate his voice and others to produce phony interviews.

      5. Other kinds of scams using actors or con men vaguely implying that I could make 30x my investment if I click through a bunch of burner websites

      For all but 1 & 2 I report it, for all the good it does. YouTube occasionally blocks scams but more often than not does nothing. Even worse, the same scam using the same video will reappear over and over under different channels and campaigns. I really don't get it since YouTube can transcribe content so how hard is it really to look for repeated scams or patterns used by scammers and flag them for review?

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Sleazy ads

        Turning off personalized ads is just bullshit. They share info regardless.

        Example. I added a track from a really obscure 90s dance band to my Spotify play list (Sheep On Drugs if you need to know). Less than a week later, their tour popped up in one of my FB feeds. There is no way on this planet that was coincidence.Yet everything has "personalised ads" turned off.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > They share info regardless

          I believe browsing history and bookmarks can identify a person with almost 100% accuracy. People tend to visit and revisit same resources. Those should be treated as PII regardless and not even ask for a consent.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Sleazy ads

          " Less than a week later, their tour popped up in one of my FB feeds."

          You need to comb through the FB ToS and find that little clause that states you have allowed them to plant tracking and you might also find that Spotify is a "partner" of FB so they've run a circle around any 'do not track' methods you have employed. Spotify is one of FB's customers, you are not. You are the product.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > the same scam video will reappear over and over

        My scam reports are not helping either. It is ironic to hear about AI from a company not using it for own core business.

        Financial service ads should only be allowed for locally regulated and registered organizations, like banks. Poor scammed people. Some will lose thousands of dollars or more.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Personalized advertising has never been allowed on YouTube Kids"

    Then why do you have a tag specifically dedicated to treatment for kids ? The fact that they are watching YouTube Kids is not enough ?

    As usual, there is what a company says, and there is what a company does.

    Google is clearly capable of being aware it is dealing with a child. To trust Google, the most powerful ad broker in the world, to do nothing with that data is something I fully expect the government institutions to not do.

    Not without ironclad proof, and the mere words of a spokesdrone are not proof.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So you see", Google says

      "Even though we built this system to look EXACTLY like we are illegally tracking and targeting ads at kids again, We assure you that is not the case. Only we have access to the back end, so of couse YOU have no way to tell the difference, and of course we can't show you... becaaause" ::looks nervous for a moment, then flips a coin:: "that would reveal TRADE SECRETS, so you should just take our word for it."

      Yeah, the fact that this is being leaked to third parties is bad enough, but the other huge hole is the word games they are playing. When they cracked down on under 13 YO accounts (due to the law) kids just made new accounts and lied about their age, or don't bother to log in at all. So YouTube and Google have merrily been targeting them while pretending they don't know they are minors, and merrily monetizing the same content that has been re-posted on hundreds of other monetized accounts with the ad settings cranked to max. They also were happy to sling algorithmically generated content like Elsa from frozen twerking with spider man by the third or forth video if autoplay was turned on, which is one of many reasons kids shouldn't be watching youtube or tiktok when you can't see what's on the screen.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "Personalized advertising has never been allowed on YouTube Kids"

      "As usual, there is what a company says, and there is what a company does."

      Yes, exactly that. Are we surprised? Of course not.

      From the article: "insists its YouTube service has not broken the law nor its own policies on advertising to children."

      This is the entire problem. Google, like most tech companies, especially US ones, but probably also many, many other companies of all types around the world, they are constantly pushing at the edges of the law looking for that tiny little bit of advantage over the competition. This leads to them stepping over on a regular basis and getting slapped down. But as we see constantly, the profits made while on the wrong side of the line is frequently more than the cost incurred in fines by that action because they can make those extra profits for a quite some time before being discovered, accused and eventually either going to court or settling. This just encourages them to maintain that behaviour, simply looking for a new "loophole" as previous one gets closed, or even an alternative way of exploiting the same loophole.

      If Google, or any other company for that matter, wants to live up to it's claims that it "has not broken the law nor its own policies on advertising to children", then make sure you are well within in the spirit of the law, not pushing hard against the boundaries where it comes down to what the justice system says is the law and what your legal team thinks is the law. If you need to run something past your legal team and it takes more than an few minutes for them to state the action is legal or not, then it probably isn't

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        Re: "Personalized advertising has never been allowed on YouTube Kids"

        The so-called "spirit of the law" is a fictional character that materializes only in a Court of Law.

        And then is usually trumped by the shareholders rights.

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    Google's motto

    Was copied down wrong by people who claimed it was "Do no evil". It was actually "do now evil".

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Google's motto

      I always assumed they misspelled it and it's meant to be Do Know Evil.

  4. FuzzyTheBear

    Always the same

    " without merit "

    Of course ..

    Fess up , admit to it and this will soon be over .. but that's asking you to be adults.

    Do no evil ? .. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

  5. Winkypop Silver badge

    YouTube adverts

    All the credibility of a chocolate tea pot.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: YouTube adverts

      ...or a 100mm chainsaw that can go right through steel pipe like butter.

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