YouTube to pay $170M fine after violating kids' privacy law

YouTube to pay $170M fine after violating kids' privacy law

Reports last week suggested Google would pay up to $200 million to settle the accusations.

A United States law known as COPPA, or the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, requires websites to get permission from parents before collecting information about children under the age of 13, including using technology which tracks their browsing habits in order to target them with advertising. Numerous huge Silicon Valley companies are also under antitrust investigations aimed at determining whether the companies have unlawfully stifled competition. YouTube allegedly made millions from using that data to display targeted ads to people watching those channels. YouTube even boasted to toy companies Mattel and Hasbro that "YouTube was unanimously voted as the favorite website for kids 2-12" and "3% of tweens visit YouTube to watch videos", the complaint says.

The FTC found that YouTube violated a law that requires parental consent before companies can collect children's personal information.

The Silicon Valley titan has previously come under fire for aggressive data-collection and poor privacy protections for customers across a number of its devices and applications, while YouTube has been criticized in recent years for arbitrary and draconian enforcement of "community standards", which has resulted in perma-bans and demonetized videos for thousands of creators. The order's requirement that channel owners designate content as child-directed is also not required by COPPA, yet it is a good start to fencing-in relief, to which YouTube has consented, to redress YouTube's own COPPA violations and reduce its facilitation of others' violations.

"YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients" while pretending material was not aimed at kids, FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement.

"We know how important it is to provide children, families and family creators the best experience possible on YouTube and we are committed to getting it right", Google said in a blog post about the settlement. Young children are protected by a federal law that requires parental consent before companies can collect and share their personal information.

How YouTube will identify children's content.

The two Democrats on the FTC, Rebecca Slaughter and Rohit Chopra, dissented from the settlement.

You ain't getting around UK data laws on a technicality top judge tells Google
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You ain't getting around UK data laws on a technicality top judge tells Google READ MORE

YouTube "baited kids with nursery rhymes, cartoons, and more to feed its massively profitable behavioural advertising business", Chopra said in a tweet.

"Google and YouTube knowingly and illegally monitored, tracked, and served targeted ads to young children just to keep advertising dollars rolling in", said James.

The announcement marks the second time in two months that the FTC has slapped a big tech company with a major fine, after the commission announced a $5 billion settlement with Facebook (FB) and its privacy lapses in July.

Google is already under a 2011 agreement with the FTC that barred it from mispresenting its privacy policy and subjected the company to 20 years of regular, independent privacy audits. Google's parent company, Alphabet, made a profit of $30.7 billion on revenue of $136.8 billion past year. "When Google pays a fine and still profits from misconduct, this is not a penalty".

YouTube's had a rough year with kids.

In addition, personalized ads will stop running on content made for kids, and features like comments and notifications will no longer be available on videos made for kids.

The $136m fine is the largest penalty collected under COPPA since the law was enacted in 1998, and is considerably larger than the previous record fine of $5.7m, given to video site TikTok in February.

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