Google’s YouTube has been fined $170 million on charges of illegally collecting data from children under the ages of 13 without parental consent.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York Attorney General claimed that the video-streaming website earned millions of dollars by collecting information in the form of cookies from viewers of child-directed channels and targeted ads to the young users, according to a complaint filed against both companies.
Therefore, YouTube’s actions violated the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, an act that requires consent from parents prior to gathering user's personal information below the ages of 13. It also includes the use of persistent identifiers, also known as cookies, to track users' browsing habits for advertising.
For violating COPPA, Google LLC will have to pay a sum of $136 million to the FTC, the largest settlement amount the independent agency has ever obtained in a child privacy case since Congress’s enactment of the federal law in 1998.
In addition to the $136 million penalty, the settlement also requires Google to pay $34 million to the state of New York.
Though YouTube claimed that its website's target is the general audience, some of its individual channels are directed to children and therefore must comply with COPPA, the FTC and New York Attorney General mentioned.
“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a press release. “Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids. There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law.”
In business presentations with the makers of popular children’s products and brands, YouTube marketed itself as a top children’s destination, claimed in the complainant file.
For instance, Google and YouTube told toy manufacturing company Mattel that “YouTube is today’s leader in reaching children age 6-11 against top TV channels”.
Following the fine announcement, YouTube's chief executive Susan Wojcicki addressed the settlement and shared the new kids and data protection on the company’s official blog.
Google has agreed to pay the fine on Wednesday.