Thursday, November 14, 2019

COPPA Compliance for YouTubers

If you're a YouTube creator, YouTuber or whatever we call ourselves - you know those of us, who have an active YouTube channel and create video content regularly.

Well, you must have come across the important notice posted by YouTube on COPPA compliance. There were a couple of messages, one of them was:

"Important: All creators are obligated to take action to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and/or other laws. Review your channel and video settings."

Many YouTube creators are very concerned about what these new changes mean to them in terms of their current content as well as going forward. More importantly what it means to their revenue generated through their video content. Well, before we dive into the details, let me briefly talk about COPPA and why YouTube needs to be in compliance with COPPA.

What is COPPA?

COPPA or Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which is managed by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is a law designed to protect the privacy of children under 13. This privacy Act was passed by the US Congress in 1998 and took effect in 2000. I won't get into all the details about COPPA, but you can read about it to learn more about the Act.

Why YouTube Needs to be in Compliance with COPPA?

Well, in simple terms - YouTube has been naughty and the FTC slapped them with a record fine of $170 million for alleged violations of COPPA. As per this FTC Press Release on September 4, 2019, the violation was related to YouTube "illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent."

The settlement not only requires Google and YouTube to pay the massive fine of $170 million, but also requires that Google and YouTube make necessary changes to their business practices and systems in terms of data collection and privacy.

Some of these changes include mandatory labeling of content intended for younger audiences, and stopping the collection of data on videos intended for children. In this official blog post, YouTube outlined these new data practices for children's content on YouTube.

YouTube has always held their stance that their platform was intended for people over 13 years of age. However, as per the press release “YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids. There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law.

And so here we are, as YouTube creators having to deal with the consequences of Google's and YouTube's negligence and lack of responsibility. Further down in this blog post, I will discuss some of the key changes and how it affects YouTubers as well as what we can do as content creators on YouTube to fight this or at least make our voices heard.

What do these Changes Mean for YouTube Creators?

First of all, these changes take effect in January 2020. However, YouTube has already started the process of informing and alerting YouTube creators about the changes that need to be made to their channel and videos.

As per the settlement, YouTube agreed to create and implement a system that requires YouTube creators to clearly identify the content that is meant for children. This is required because targeted or personalized ads cannot be placed on these videos.

YouTube has already implemented these changes in YouTube Studio. Essentially, YouTubers have two options to identify their videos as "Made for Kids" or "Not Made for Kids". The first option is at the global (or channel level); and the second option is at the video level. In the video below, Lauren, the Head of Family Partnerships at YouTube, discusses the new changes as well as provides instructions on how to use the channel and videos settings to identify your videos.

Another change that will be implemented by YouTube is a machine learning system that will automatically identify videos that are clearly deemed for children. However, they will initially rely of YouTube creators to mark their videos as "Made for Kids" or not. In the video below Lauren also highlights factors to take into consideration to help identify videos that are "Made for Kids".

In this video above, Lauren also highlights some of the other changes that will affect your videos that are marked as "Made for Kids". For example, YouTube will limit the data they collect from these videos in order to comply with COPPA.

Some other features that will no longer be available, on "Made for Kids" videos are the comments section, info cards, and end screens. Also, these videos will no longer have personalized ads, which could mean a decreased ad revenue.

What can YouTube Creators do to Fight Back?

My take on this is that this is not our fault as YouTube content creators, but looks like we are having to bear the brunt of it. And I think it's important to have our voices heard because it will impact the way we create our content and negative impact this can have on the revenue generated through our video content.

I completely understand and support the importance of privacy and especially protecting children. However, I believe that the responsibility that COPPA has put on YouTube content creators is unreasonable and unacceptable in my humble opinion.

My content and channel is not targeted towards kids, but still some of my videos may have to be labeled as "Made for Kids" because they may be deemed for a younger audience. It should be the responsibility of parents to restrict the websites they access including YouTube.

So what can we as YouTube content creators do to have our voices heard? Well, first watch this video below from J House Law who used to be a civil litigator. This video will help you get a good understanding from a YouTube creator's perspective and what we can do to make our voices heard.

As per the video above, here are some of the recommendations made, along with suggested talking points for creator and viewers. You will also find a link below to see comments already submitted by other YouTube creators and viewers:

This is a very serious matter and will affect some YouTube creators more than others. But, in general, this seems to be an overreach by the government trying to take more control of our lives. On this ending note, I'm reminded of this quote from Ronald Reagan "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

I encourage you to take it upon yourself to act and make your voices heard by doing the above and sharing this with others to do the same. Together we can make a difference. Thanks for stopping by!

CREDITS: Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission | Microsoft, Windows, and the Windows logo are trademarks, or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries | Logos and screenshots used with permission from respective owners | Other company names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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