Skip to main content

Landmark UK Legal Claim Over Unlawful Use by YouTube of More Than 5 million Children’s Data

Related Lawyers: Lesley Hannah, Luke Streatfeild, Eleanor Powell, Kio Gwilliam
Related Practice Areas: Competition Disputes, Competition Counseling and Compliance, Technology Disputes, Collective Redress

London - Monday 14th September - A multi-billion pounds claim – brought on behalf of up to 5 million British children aged under 13 and their parents – alleges that YouTube’s methods of targeting underage audiences constitute major violations of the UK Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), both of which were designed to protect citizens’ privacy rights.

The representative action brought in the UK High Court is the first of its kind in Europe brought against a tech firm on behalf of children.

YouTube routinely breaks UK and European privacy laws, unlawfully targets young children with addictive programming and harvests their data - without obtaining the prior consent of the children’s parents or guardians - according to the ground-breaking legal action.

The website has no user practical age requirements and makes no adequate attempt to limit usage by youngsters

YouTube, owned by Google, claims not to target underage viewers but its popularity with British children is unrivalled even by mainstream TV channels. The UK media regulator Ofcom reported earlier this year that most children aged 3 years or over now watch it at least once a week, for several hours on average.

Duncan McCann, the representative claimant in the action, said:

“My kids love YouTube, and I want them to be able to use it. But YouTube needs to comply with the law. It isn’t ‘free’ – our kids are paying for it with their attention and private data. Like many parents, I am conscious of what’s happening with my kids’ data online, but even so it’s just impossible to combat Google’s lure and influence, which comes from its surveillance power. There’s a massive power imbalance between us and them, and it needs to be fixed.”

Lesley Hannah, Partner at Hausfeld LLP, who is leading the litigation, said:

“British and European laws are there to protect all citizen’s privacy and data rights, with special protections for children. However, Google continues to break those laws. The company needs to be held to account and pay compensation to all families who use YouTube in England and Wales.”

“Schools, hospitals and millions of small businesses observe their GDPR obligations every day, despite the occasional inconvenience of doing so. Google’s size and power does not give it the right to sidestep those.”

The claimants are represented by Hausfeld LLP, and Gerry Facenna QC and Nik Grubeck of Monckton Chambers. Foxglove serves as co-counsel and the action is funded by Vannin Capital.

For more information, please visit the claim website


Media enquiries

Conal Walsh / Jack Myers, Palatine Communications

Notes to Editors

About Duncan McCann

Duncan leads the digital economy programme at the New Economics Foundation, which aims to create a new economy that works for people and within environmental limits. He regularly blogs about digital economy and technology developments. He is a father of three children aged 13 or under.

About Hausfeld

Hausfeld is a leading law firm specialising in litigation, with 7 offices in Europe and 5 offices in the U.S. Hausfeld possesses significant experience in all aspects of collective redress and group claims – often acting against some of the largest corporations in the world. The firm pioneered the trucks competition litigation in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. It has acted on some of the most complex damages claims of the last decade: on the ‘Interchange Fee’ litigation against Visa and Mastercard, in ‘Google Shopping’ claims on behalf of price comparison websites against Google; against 6 financial institutions over their participation in unlawful price-fixing of the foreign exchange currency markets and most recently in the Marriott data breach claim.

US action

The legal action follows successful punitive action brought by US authorities against YouTube for allegedly collecting personal information from children without their parent’s consent. This information was allegedly collected in the form of persistent identifiers or “cookies”, which are used to track users’ internet browsing habits for the purposes of targeted advertising. Last year, Google was forced to pay a record $170 million to settle a claim by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York Attorney General that YouTube had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Related Lawyers