Google-owned YouTube is serving ads from many "adult" Fortune 500 advertisers and major media agencies on YouTube channels that are labeled as "made for kids," a new report from ad quality transparency platform Adalytics has alleged.
These include major brands such as Mars, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Colgate-Palmolive, Samsung, and many others, the report claimed.
"The viewers of 'made for kids' YouTube videos appear to be clicking on ads, and brands' websites "are harvesting and sharing meta-data on those viewers with dozens of data brokers upon click through".
This raises the possibility that brands have "data poisoned" their first party datasets with data derived from thousands of viewers of "made for kids" videos, the report claimed.
The report further said that some companies appear to be scraping or exfiltrating Google-generated user identifiers from viewers of "made for kids" videos who had clicked an ad.
This could hypothetically prevent Google from being able to fully respond to "right to know" or "right to delete" requests under privacy laws such as the GDPR or CCPA.
It is unclear if Google is aware of this situation, or if it is a form of "data leak," the report mentioned.
In response to the report, Dan Taylor, Vice President, Global Ads at Google, said that Google works tirelessly to provide a safer experience for kids and teens online.
"Adalytics released a deeply flawed and uninformed report about how we manage advertising on made for kids content on YouTube, and our privacy policies for people under the age of 18 across our platforms," Taylor added.
In September 2019, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the People of the State of New York (NY) alleged that YouTube "collected kid's personal information without parental consent", in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). YouTube's owner (Google) agreed to pay $170 million to settle the allegations.
Google said that the new report failed to substantiate claims that "we are in violation of government regulations, such as COPPA, or our own policies around ads personalisation”.
"We have strict ads privacy protections in place on made for kids content, regardless of a user's age," the company added.
"This report falsely claims that the presence of cookies indicates a privacy breakdown. The opposite is true, and the report fails to show otherwise," it added.
According to an Adalytics report, dozens of major ad tech and data broker companies are receiving data from viewers of "made for kids" YouTube videos who clicked on an ad.
“These include several companies who paid penalties for COPPA related enforcements, such as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and OpenX. Foreign-owned companies such as TikTok are also receiving meta-data from viewers of “made for kids” content from advertisers’ websites,” the report alleged.
Google said that it does not link "cookies to the viewing of made for kids content for advertising purposes, and a viewer’s activity on made for kids content can't be used for ads personalisation".
"The cookies identified in this report are encrypted and not usable by another tech company, advertiser, publisher or a data broker. These cookies do not enable brand advertisers to identify who a user is or what video they viewed. We limit age-sensitive ads from appearing next to kids' content," Google stressed.