Google and YouTube add to child privacy and protection features

11 Aug 2021

Image: © Chinnapong/Stock.adobe.com

Removing targeted advertising and location tracking for children are just two of the privacy policies to be implemented by Google.

Alphabet-owned Google and YouTube have revealed new policies aimed at reducing the digital footprints of young users alongside additional safeguards to increase privacy protection.

The new policies will be rolled out over the coming months and will block ad targeting on Google for users under the age of 18 based on their age, gender or interests. YouTube will begin to remove overly commercial content from its YouTube Kids feature, such as videos that focus on product packaging or ones that directly encourage the children to buy products.

Google’s location history is also being scrapped for all users under the age of 18. While it is already off by default for all accounts, people under the age 18 will no longer be able to turn it on.

Google will enable the parent or guardian of someone under 18, or the child themselves, to flag photos of the child on Google Images for removal. In a blog post, the company highlighted: “Of course, removing an image from search doesn’t remove it from the web, but we believe this change will help give young people more control of their images online.”

The SafeSearch feature will also be expanded. This filter targets mature content and is already turned on by default for users under the age of 13 who are part of the Google Family Link feature, but soon any user under the age of 18 will have the filter enabled by default.

“We’re committed to building products that are secure by default, private by design, and that put people in control,” wrote Mindy Brooks, general manager for kids and family at Google.

“As kids and teens spend more time online, parents, educators, child safety and privacy experts and policymakers are rightly concerned about how to keep them safe. We engage with these groups regularly, and share these concerns.”

On YouTube’s end, any videos uploaded by users under the age of 18 will be set to private automatically. This can be toggled off, but users will be reminded about who might be able to see the video if it is on a more public setting.

Take a break and bedtime reminders will also be turned on as the default setting. Stopping a child from getting glued to their screen is part of the platform’s digital wellbeing effort and so autoplay will also be disabled for these young users. Once again, these settings can be toggled on or off, but may require parental consent to do so.

Alphabet’s decision to focus on the safety and privacy protection of its young users arrives amid a storm of controversy in the area of safeguarding children, as Apple recently announced its controversial new tech aimed at targeting child sexual abuse material.

Sam Cox is a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news

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