Google Faces Unprecedented $170 Million Penalty For Illegally Gathering Data, Violating Child Privacy Laws On YouTube

YouTube. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Tech behemoth Google on Wednesday (4 August) agreed to pay a $170 million fine to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York attorney general that its flagship product, YouTube, violated children’s privacy by illegally gathering their personal information and selling it to advertisers without their consent or that of their parents, the New York Times reported.

Google was found in violation of provisions of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) enacted by the US Congress in 1998. The fine is the largest civil penalty ever levelled for a such a privacy violation.

As per COPPA provisions, child-directed sites are mandated to disclose data practices and get parental consent for collecting information on children under age 13. However YouTube is alleged to have collected personal information from “viewers of child-directed channels” without parental consent using cookies, which track user behaviour across the internet.

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The settlement requires Google and its subsidiary YouTube to pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York.

As per the terms of the settlement, YouTube is now required implement a feature that allows content creators to flag videos made for users under 13 years old, so that targeted ads won’t be placed in those videos. YouTube will also be required to ask for parents’ permission before collecting personal information from children.

“This settlement achieves a significant victory for the millions of parents whose children watch child-directed content on YouTube,” Republican FTC chairman Joe Simons and fellow GOP commissioner Christine Wilson said in a joint statement. “It also sends a strong message to children’s content providers and to platforms.”

“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” wrote  Simons, who voted in favour of the settlement. “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.”

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