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YouTube’s updated terms of service, explained

YouTube's updated terms and conditions will go into effect June 1 globally

YouTube will be able to place ads on videos made by all creators who are not involved in the platform's partnership program — without giving them a cut of the cash. Effective June 1, the video platform will have the right to monetize most content on its site, per its updated global terms of service. It will also ban the collection of personal data via facial recognition and change the way it pays creators. Here’s what marketers need to know about the changes.

YouTube users the world over received an email Saturday from the Google-owned platform reminding them that new provisions outlined in its terms of service will take effect globally on June 1.

The changes, which rolled out in the US in November, create new data privacy protections for users, introduce a new right for the platform to monetize content made by independent creators and update the company’s taxation framework for revenue earned by creators.

Explicit ban against collecting personal data via facial recognition

YouTube’s terms of service prohibits the collection “of any information that might identify a person without their permission.” While the company claims this has always been part of its policies, the changes include updated language that explicitly calls out the use of facial recognition software for the purpose of gathering personal data on users.

“This clarification is reasonably assumed to be at least in part a response to commercialized services which have recently been using access to ad-based ‘free’ sites to gain images or information for their own platforms,” says Brenda Leong, senior counsel and director of artificial intelligence and ethics at the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington, DC-based privacy-focused think tank.

In particular, she says, the use of Clearview AI, which matches “images against an enrolled database” and PimEyes, “which is more like a search engine [and uses] ‘spiders’ to crawl the web,” have garnered significant concern over the last couple of years. YouTube’s changes, she says, may be a direct response to worries that such software is being applied to collect users’ data without their permission.

While marketers employing facial recognition software on YouTube may no longer do so, there is no current US legislation prohibiting or even regulating the scraping of data across sites like YouTube, though Leong notes that this is a “key topic in current privacy legislation discussions at both state and federal levels.”

YouTube declined a request for comment.

YouTube’s right to content monetization

YouTube has the right to monetize any and all content on its platform that is not does not belong to the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) — a program through which creators can copyright and make money from their original content.

“YouTube runs ads in various areas of their platform, including before and sometimes during videos, on the homepage masthead and in various search results,” Leong says. “This update indicates that they also have the right to run ads on videos from providers or in channels too small to qualify for their Partner Program. And in such cases, the full benefit of the ad sale goes to YouTube until the channel reaches the level to qualify for paid partner status and can receive a share.”

Indeed, YouTube is already beginning to run ads on videos across the platform that are not under an existing monetization contract. And under the new rule, there is no revenue-sharing component of the new initiative, meaning YouTube can place ads on original content without giving the content creator a cut of the revenue.

New revenue taxation policies

Under the new terms of service, YouTube payments to creators who are entitled to revenue will now be considered royalties, and therefore must comply with US tax law. As such, Google will now withhold taxes from these payments as is legally required.

“US creators will generally be unaffected by these withholding taxes as long as they provide valid tax documentation in Adsense,” the company said in a statement published in November. Creators outside of the US will be subject to the laws of their respective countries.

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