A lawsuit was filed against Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, and a number of other businesses, alleging that the companies violated the privacy of children under the age of 13 by tracking their YouTube activity without the consent of their parents in order to send them targeted advertisements, was revived on Wednesday by an appeals court in the US.
By enacting the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, Congress did not intend to preempt state-based privacy claims, according to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle.
The authority to regulate the online collection of personal data about children under the age of 13 is granted by that law to the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general, but not to private plaintiffs.
The lawsuit claimed that YouTube content providers like Hasbro, Mattel, the Cartoon Network, and DreamWorks Animation lured children to their channels knowing that they would be tracked and that Google’s data collection violated similar state laws.
The lawsuit was dismissed in July 2021 by US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Francisco, stating that the plaintiffs’ claims under the laws of California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Tennessee were preempted by the federal privacy law.
However, Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown stated in the 3-0 decision on Wednesday that the language of the federal law made it “nonsensical” to assume Congress intended to prevent the plaintiffs from invoking state laws that target the same alleged misconduct.
Freeman was given the case back to look at if there were any other reasons Google and the content providers could use to dismiss it.
The content providers’ and Google’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Similar requests were not immediately answered by the children’s lawyers.
Google agreed to pay $170 million in October 2019 to settle charges brought by the FTC and New York Attorney General Letitia James that YouTube illegally collected personal data about children without permission.
In the San Francisco case, the plaintiffs claimed that Google did not start complying with COPPA until January 2020.
Between July 2013 and April 2020, YouTube users under the age of 16 were the subject of their lawsuit.
Jones et al. v. Google LLC et al., 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-16281.