Google fined $170m for sharing children's YouTube data

Google fined $170m for sharing children's YouTube data

The settlement with the FTC and the NY attorney general's office, which will receive $34 million, is the largest since a law banning collecting information about children under age 13 came into effect in 1998.

YouTube has already begun plans to strip videos aimed at kids of "targeted" ads, which rely on information such as web-browsing cookies, Bloomberg has reported.

The settlement, which must be approved by a federal court, calls for the FTC to receive $136 million and NY state the remaining $34 million.

Two groups whose complaint helped trigger the FTC's investigation say they're pleased the settlement may reduce the amount of behavioral advertising targeting children on YouTube.

Simons said the settlement makes Google liable for violations by third-party content creators, going beyond federal law that requires the platform to have knowledge that videos are directed at children.

"Starting in about four months, we will treat data from anyone watching children's content on YouTube as coming from a child, regardless of the age of the user", wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on the Official YouTube blog, "This means we'll will limit data collection and use on videos made for kids only to what is needed to support the operation of the service".

In addition to the monetary fine, the proposed settlement requires the company to refrain from violating the law in the future and to notify channel owners about their obligations to get consent from parents before collecting information on children. "When it comes to fencing-in relief", which would keep content explicitly directed at children penned off so it could be handled separately, "the current order looks like a fence but one with only three sides".

Content identified as children's programming on YouTube's main site will not offer features like comments and notifications and won't serve personalized ads.

Ms Wojcicki added that Google would create a $100 million fund "dedicated to the creation of thoughtful, original children's content on YouTube and YouTube Kids globally".

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She also said the firm would stop targeting ads based on data gathered about users who had watched children's videos.

YouTube had long maintained that children under 13 don't use its site without parental supervision, as its terms of service stipulate, but according to the FTC, it touted young users in advertising materials.

The Silicon Valley titan has previously come under fire for aggressive data-collection and poor privacy protections for customers across a number of its devices and applications, while YouTube has been criticized in recent years for arbitrary and draconian enforcement of "community standards", which has resulted in perma-bans and demonetized videos for thousands of creators.

YouTube "baited kids with nursery rhymes, cartoons, and more to feed its massively profitable behavioral advertising business", Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra said in a tweet.

The deal was approved by a 3-2 vote of the FTC commissioners, with the two Democrats calling for tougher penalties.

It is also small compared with the company's revenues. "It was lucrative, and it was illegal".

The "paltry financial penalty of $170 million" is a mere slap and "sends a signal that if you are a politically powerful corporation, you do not have to fear any serious financial consequences when you break the law", Mr Chester said.

Separately, the FTC fined video site, now called TikTok, US$5.7 million earlier this year after finding it illegally collected personal information about kids.

As part of Google's settlement with the FTC, the company will be required to create a new system so that content directed at children will be clearly labelled.