According to reports, the Federal Trade Commission and Google have finalized a settlement in its investigation into YouTube. YouTube was facing an accusation for violating federal kid’s data privacy laws and seems like a huge fine is imminent.
The investigation finds that Google inadequately protected kids who used its video-streaming services and improperly collected their data in breach of the COPPA. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits the tracking and targeting of users younger than age 13. (But tracking the data of anyone older is totally fine, it seems…)
They have not disclosed the exact amount of the fine yet. However, we can speculate that this will set Google back with millions of dollars. The case now rests on the hands of the Justice Department. This is still not good news for Google because the Justice Department rarely upends the FTC’s settlements.
Privacy advocates have filed years of complaints about YouTube to the FTC. There are allegations that YouTube is directing some of the most popular streaming channels (meant for people over age 13) towards children. They include videos featuring nursery rhymes, cartoons and people opening kid’s toys. The agency spokesperson Cathy MacFarlane and Google spokesperson Chris Dale, however, have declined to comment on the investigation.
The fine is potentially small when comparing it to Google’s annual revenue. But, this allegation still carries broad legal risks for both the tech giants and the rest of the industry. Many popular online services also shared these cases raised by privacy advocates. Instagram, Snapchat and even games like Fortnite have also shown support to the case.
The settlement also arrives at a moment when the FTC has embarked to rethink how it enforces COPPA. Joe Simons, FTC’s chairperson, announced his intentions to update the process this week. Among the FTC’s concerns are websites, video games, and other services. Primarily those, that are not explicitly marketed to children but still attract large numbers of young users.
During the course of the FTC’s investigation, Google has explored ways to change how YouTube handles children’s videos. That has included changes to the algorithms that determine which videos YouTube queues up next.