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Why YouTube wants some age verification from you all of the sudden

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If you recently came across YouTube asking you to verify your age or risk account deletion, you’re not alone. Google has become much more aggressive about age verification in recent years because of a hefty fine the company had to pay when it was found violating children’s safety guidelines, and that’s why it’s asking some people for their ID cards or credit cards for verification. Here’s what you need to know.

First off, Google is quick to reassure that any data you provide is solely used for age verification purposes. In a help page, Google says that if you verify your age via an ID card, it will delete the image as soon as it’s done checking. When using a credit card, the company will authorize a small amount to check if it’s valid, but it won’t charge any money — the authorization usually disappears within the next few days.

Keep in mind that Google will only ask you to upload your ID or credit card on a dedicated upload site after you sign into your Google account. The company will never ask you to send an email or message with these details, so be wary if you receive anything asking you to do that.

If you can’t or don’t provide proof of your age, Google will deactivate your account within 14 days and then delete all account information after 30 days. It’s worth noting that you don’t have to be 18 or older to be able to fully use your Google account, though. Kids aged 13 and older are eligible to have a full Google account, so it’s enough if you proof that you’re at least that old. You might not be able to access some videos and some other content, but you can mostly continue using your account as you always have. Kids younger than 13 can have their own Google account, too, but it has to be a supervised account, managed by parents or guardians. You’ll have to set that up with your parents to continue using your account.

Google is doing all that because of a legal dispute. Ever since the company had to pay a record fine of $170 million for breaking the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) back in 2019, the company has become much more careful about its practices surrounding YouTube when it comes to child protection. Part of that is reflected in a more aggressive age verification policy, and that’s where these ID and credit card requests come from. They’re meant to ensure that Google can use your watch and browsing history for advertising, a practice that is illegal for minors.

In Europe, a similar child protection legislation (part of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive) is forcing users to verify their age. It’s supposed to better protect minors from inappropriate or violent content.

As you can see, the reason Google is asking for age verification is the protection of minors, and it’s not meant as a data grab or some obscure money-making scheme. While the company hasn’t responded to our inquiry about its measures to protect this data, its help pages make clear that Google isn’t keeping copies of IDs for purposes other than age verification.

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