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Google has agreed to pay up to $200 million to settle an FTC investigation into YouTube for breaking children’s privacy laws. The news was first reported by Politico who confirmed it from a person familiar with the matter.
While the settlement hasn’t been officially announced, Politico reported that the voting has been done and the settlement will go to the Justice Department for final approval. The reports of the investigation first emerged around two months back when Google was held responsible for breaching children privacy laws. According to an earlier report, privacy groups claimed YouTube collected data on young viewers without parental consent in order to serve them ads. This violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which limits how much data can be collected by websites younger than 13.
I look forward to reviewing the requirements placed upon Google in this settlement, but I am disappointed that the Commission appears poised to once again come out with a partisan settlement that falls short of the Commission’s responsibility to consumers and risks normalizing corporate bad behavior.
While $150 million might sound like huge to normal people, it won’t even make a dent to Google who’s revenue goes into billions. For instance, Facebook was recently fined $5 billion while the company reported an earnings of $15.08 billion in the first quarter of this year. Privacy advocates have often criticized FTC and other government bodies for being too lenient on companies when it comes to privacy and data protection.
They have allowed YouTube to build a children’s media empire through illegal means that now, no one can compete with; all for the cost of a fine which is the equivalent of two to three months of YouTube ad revenue. They should levy a fine which both levels the playing field, and serves as a deterrent to future COPPA violations. This fine would do neither.
– Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (via Gizmodo)
The good thing is, YouTube is at least trying to maintain privacy as the company announced that they will be rolling out a web version of mobile app geared towards kids.