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Google has agreed to pay $170 million fine to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney general that its YouTube service earned millions by illegally harvesting personal information from children without their parents’ consent.
The penalty and changes were part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and New York’s attorney general, which had accused YouTube of violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.
The data also includes children’ persistent identification codes used to track a user’s Internet browsing habits over time without notifying their parents and getting their consent.
It is by far the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the commission in a children’s privacy case, dwarfing the previous record fine of $5.7 million against the owner of the social video-sharing app TikTok this year.
“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said. “Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were directed to kids. There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law.”
To settle the charges, YouTube agreed to the $170 million penalties, with $136 million going to the trade commission and $34 million to New York State.
Besides the monetary fine, the proposed settlement also requires Google and YouTube to make changes to protect children’s privacy on YouTube by:
Developing and maintaining a system that lets channel owners identify ‘child-directed content’ on the video-sharing platform so that YouTube can ensure it is complying with COPPA.
Notifying channel owners that their child-directed content may be subject to the COPPA Rule’s obligations and provide annual training about complying with the law for employees who deal with YouTube channel owners.
The settlement on Wednesday is likely to have implications beyond YouTube. The changes required under the agreement could limit how much video makers earn on the platform because while they still make money on some kinds of ads on children’s videos, they no longer be able to profit from ads targeted at children.