YouTube has been penalized a record $170m by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for contravening children’s privacy laws. It is the largest fine the commission has ever imposed for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa).
Google, the owner of the giant video site, agreed to pay in a settlement on Wednesday. They paid $136m to the FTC and $34m to the state of New York. YouTube has been indicted for gathering data on children under 13 without parental consent.
The FTC said that collecting data and using them to target ads to children failed to comply with the 1998 Coppa. “There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said. He added that Google also refused to acknowledge that parts of its main YouTube service targeted children viewers.
Critics noted that the record-breaking fine was simply not enough. Google can earn $170 million in only about two days.
Rohit Chopra, one of the five FTC commissioners, said in a statement that Google “baited” children on YouTube with videos featuring nursery rhymes and cartoons. He also posted to twitter how he thought the penalty “barely bites” and that the suggested changes to YouTube were “insufficient”.
A New Front for Children’s Data Privacy
However, Director of FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Andrew Smith argued that the order goes beyond the amount. He said that the settlement is “a new front” in their battle to protect children’s data privacy. That’s because it finally went after the platform instead of the content creator for once. “We are holding a platform liable under COPPA for content posted by somebody else. That’s a really big deal,” Smith said in a press conference.
YouTube’s chief executive Susan Wojcicki said in a blog that the site had taken “a hard look” at what it could do to address unsupervised streaming by children. “Starting in four months, we will treat data from anyone watching children’s content on YouTube as coming from a child, regardless of the age of the user,” she said.
Read YouTube’s thread of other upcoming changes “designed to better protect data on children’s content” below:
2. Personalized ads will stop running on content made for kids.
— YouTube (@YouTube) September 4, 2019