YOUTUBE faces a £2.5billion legal battle for allegedly breaching the privacy of millions of British kids.
Duncan McCann, 41, will accuse the company of harvesting and selling data from under 13 users to advertising companies without consent – a breach of UK and EU law.
Google, which owns YouTube, will strongly deny any wrongdoing while YouTube denies selling personal information.
Privacy campaigner Mr McCann last night said: “We used to be worried about how children used the internet, the dangers of children being exposed to pornography or being groomed.
“That is still a problem, but we should also be aware of how the internet is using children, which was not the case ten years ago. Are we comfortable with children being products of the internet rather than products of their parents?”
The case is the first of its kind in Europe.
If successful, Mr McCann believes damages of just £500 could be payable to those whose data was breached, but it would set a precedent and potentially make YouTube liable for payouts to the estimated five million British kids and their parents or guardianson the site.
He will argue that YouTube and Google breached the UK’s Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations.
He also alleges that children’s information is sold to companies such as toy manufacturers to target them with adverts.
He said: “It cannot be right that Google can take children’s private data without explicit permission and then sell it to advertisers to target children.
“I believe it is only through legal action and damages that these companies will change their behaviour, and it is only through a class action that we can fight these companies on an equal basis.”
Google is expected to emphasise that YouTube is not for under 13s, who should use the the YouTube Kids app with tougher safeguards.
It will add that changes introduced last year improved notification to parents, limited data collection and restricted personalised adverts.
The case will docus on children who watched YouTube since May 2018, when the Data Protection Act became law.
Digital privacy campaigners Foxglove and global law firm Hausfeld have pledged their support.
Lesley Hannah, of Hausfeld, said: “This is an incredibly important case. Tech titans such as Google cannot be above the law.”
Foxglove director Cori Crider added: “The cost of YouTube’s free services is kids addicted, influenced and with no privacy. Google won’t clean up its act until it is forced to do so by the courts.”
Last night, a YouTube spokesman said: “We don’t comment on pending litigation. YouTube is not for children under the age of 13. We launched the YouTube Kids app [in 2015] as a dedicated destination for kids and have made further changes that allow us to better protect kids and families on YouTube.”
The case is not expected before next autumn.
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