Google will pay a record $170 million fine to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General that YouTube has violated the privacy of children.
“The FTC and New York Attorney General allege that YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule by collecting personal information, in the form of persistent identifiers that are used to track users across the Internet, from viewers of child-directed channels, without first notifying parents and getting their consent,” the FTC announcement notes. “YouTube earned millions of dollars by using the identifiers, commonly known as cookies, to deliver targeted ads to viewers of these channels.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Google will pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York. The agency notes that the $136 million penalty is “by far” the largest amount the FTC has ever obtained in a COPPA case since the law was enacted in 1998.
Privacy advocates say that the fine is “paltry” and that Google was essentially unpunished, and that merely requiring the firm to follow the law was “meaningless.” Google, they say, should be held accountable for illegally mining data from children.
“The FTC let Google off the hook with a drop-in-the-bucket fine and a set of new requirements that fall well short of what is needed to turn YouTube into a safe and healthy place for kids,” Senator Edward J. Markey said in a statement.
For its part, Google says that it has agreed to stop placing targeted ads on children’s videos and that it will stop gathering personal data from anyone who watches those videos, regardless of age. YouTube features that involve personal data use, like comments and notifications, will also be disabled for those videos.