Aug 30, 2019 - Technology

YouTube reportedly settles with FTC over children's privacy violation

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Google has agreed to pay a $150-$200 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission for violating children's online privacy laws via its video platform YouTube, Politico reports.

Our thought bubble: It's a small fine given how much backlash YouTube has experienced over the past year for not adequately policing content and advertising on its platform that is aimed at children.

Details: According to the report, the FTC voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the settlement. Reports have suggested that the FTC was looking into whether YouTube was collecting data from children under 13 years old to serve up targeted ads.

Yes, but: Critics argue the fine doesn't go far enough, especially given how much cash Google has and how influential YouTube has become in children's media diets.

"[I]f the FTC fines Google only $200 million, that’s terribly inadequate. 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."
— Josh Golin, executive director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Meanwhile, YouTube has taken precautions to ensure that its kids content and policies don't attract more scrutiny from policymakers and advertisers in the future.

  • Ahead of the settlement, YouTube said it's creating a separate website for YouTube kids, previously only accessible via a mobile app.
  • YouTube will also reportedly end targeted advertising on videos aimed at children, Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: The fine is the latest action the FTC has taken to rein in children's privacy violations over the past year. In February, the Chinese-owned video app TikTok agreed to a $5.7 million settlement with the U.S. FTC for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

What's next: The settlement will head to the Justice Department for review.

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