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Open Letter From Children’s Rights Advocates Urges Tech Firms to Stop Targeting Advertisements to Kids

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Sep 22, 2020

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An open letter signed by politicians, academics, doctors and activists urges big technology firms to stop advertising to children. This letter, put together by U.K. based charity Global Action Plan, comes after Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube was accused of mining data from over five million U.K. based children under 13.

“Existing data protection laws both in the US and EU outlaw processing of kids’ (under 13) data without informed parental consent. If these laws were properly observed or enforced, behavioral ads to kids would not be possible. The fact that ad-tech companies hold on average 72 million data points on a US child by the time they turn 13 tells its own story,” Global Action Plan associates said in a press release.

The letter lays forth demands that include turning off advertising and targeting for all individuals under 18. There are two major reasons why technology and marketing companies have no business advertising to children — first, the violation of privacy and second, marketing pressure on individuals without the cognitive capacity to recognize it.


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Children do not have the full cognitive capacity to understand how their data is utilized, and are less likely to differentiate between genuine information and sponsored content aimed to make a product attractive. Yet, advertisers target them because it is easy to build brand loyalty among children, and because children hold significant influence over family spending.

According to UNICEF 2017 data, one in three internet users is a child. The letter says, “With children online more than ever in a post-COVID world, we urge you to take that responsibility seriously and commit to ending behavioral advertising to children. You, the most powerful companies on the internet, have a responsibility to protect your users.”

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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