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Google to introduce new safety, privacy functions for kids

By Jake Thomas
Google to introduce new safety, privacy functions for kids
Tech giant Google's first retail store in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Google announced Tuesday a series of changes to its products intended to protect the privacy of teens and kids while shielding them from commercial and adult content.

The tech giant's announcement said it was building on existing tools to give parents and guardians more control over their children's online presence. Google and other large tech companies have come under scrutiny by regulators, advocacy groups and lawmakers for not doing enough to protect the privacy of children who use their products.

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"As kids and teens spend more time online, parents, educators, child safety and privacy experts and policy makers are rightly concerned about how to keep them safe," Mindy Brooks, Google's product and UX director for kids and families, said in a blog post announcing the changes. "We engage with these groups regularly and share these concerns."

In the coming weeks, YouTube will default to its most private setting for teens 13 to 17, meaning content they upload will only be seen by them and whomever they choose to share it with. Additionally, YouTube will make reminders to take a break and bedtime the default for the same age group.

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In addition to limiting its tracking of kids' locations, Google said it will also expand measures to prevent teens from seeing age-sensitive ads. Google users under 18 won't be exposed to ads targeting their age, gender or interests.

James Beser, YouTube's director of product management, kids and family, said in a blog post Tuesday that YouTube kids will begin to remove overly commercial content from the platform "such as a video that only focuses on product packaging or directly encourages children to spend money."

Google and other large tech companies came under fire from advocacy groups for targeting children with advertising, The Hill reported. In 2019, Google and YouTube paid a record $170 million to settle allegations from the Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney general that the companies illegally collected personal information from children.

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