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YouTube child data gathering faces UK scrutiny after complaint

YouTube signage is seen at their offices in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's information regulator said on Wednesday it would look into an official complaint accusing Alphabet Inc's YouTube of illegally collecting data from millions of children.

The complaint lodged by father-of-three Duncan McCann, who is leading the campaign and supported by his employer the advocacy group 5Rights, said the video-streaming platform had broken the newly implemented law by gathering "the location, viewing habits and preferences" of up to 5 million children.

Countries have been wrestling to strike the right balance with legislation that protects social media users, particularly children, from harmful content without damaging free speech.

McCann said in a statement that YouTube should change the design of its platform and delete data it had been gathering.

"It is a massive, unlicensed, social experiment on our children with uncertain consequences," McCann said.

A spokesperson for YouTube said it had taken steps to bolster child privacy with more protective default settings, and made investments to protect children and families by launching a dedicated kids app and introducing new data practices.

"We remain committed to continuing our engagement with the ICO on this priority work, and with other key stakeholders including children, parents and child protection experts," the YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

Britain's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it would consider the complaint carefully.

"The Children's code makes clear that children are not like adults online, and their data needs meaningful protections," the ICO's Deputy Commissioner, Regulatory Supervision, Stephen Bonner said in a statement.

Britain's Children's code requires providers to meet 15 design and privacy standards to protect children, including limiting collection of their location and other personal data.

In 2019, YouTube was fined $170 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle allegations that it broke federal law by collecting personal information about children.

(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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