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YouTube bans facial recognition

Google has advised creators of YouTube videos that its terms of service prohibit them from using facial recognition tools, among other restrictions.

While it says these restrictions have already been in place, it has not made them explicit before.

From 1 June 2021, YouTube accounts created outside of the US will be subject to a few new terms of service. Most notably, the platform now explicitly states that users of the platform may not collect information that might identify a person without their permission.  

The clarification of facial recognition restrictions come off the back of “content farmers”, which use existing content on platforms like YouTube to build and strengthen facial recognition networks. While this move does not necessarily stop these bad actors from collecting and analysing content on the platform, it is a good first step in the right direction for YouTube to enforce bans if the content farmers are uncovered. 

The new terms of service also clarify how royalty payments and tax could be withheld. Budding and existing content creators should carefully review these terms and consult a tax expert on a way forward when claiming payments from monetised YouTube. 

Users do not actively need to accept these terms, as YouTube views continued use of its platforms as agreement on a user’s behalf. Continual use by children with a YouTube Kids account will also count as agreeing to these new terms. 

These new terms of service came into effect in the US in November 2020 and will roll out to the rest of the world’s YouTube accounts next week. 

YouTube provided the following summary of changes: 

  • Facial recognition restrictions. The Terms of Service already stated that you cannot collect any information that might identify a person without their permission. While this has always included facial recognition information, the new Terms make that explicitly clear. 
  • YouTube’s right to monetize. YouTube is gradually starting to serve ads on a limited set of brand-safe videos on channels not in the YouTube Partner Program or not under a monetising agreement. There will not be revenue share from these ads, but Creators can still apply for the YouTube Partner Program once they reach the eligibility criteria, which remain unchanged.
  • Royalty payments and tax withholding. If you are entitled to receive payments from YouTube through any other agreement between yourself and YouTube (for example, through the YouTube Partner Program), all such payments will be treated as royalties starting 1 June 2021. Google will withhold taxes from such payments as required by law. 

For more information on the new terms of service, visit YouTube’s Help Centre

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