Google fined $170M for violating children's privacy

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 4
Google and subsidiary YouTube has been hit with a record $170 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission, to settle allegations the search company violated a law protecting children's privacy.

YouTube Baby Shark


The fine is split into $136 million paid to the FTC and $34 million to New York, to end the investigation by the FTC and the New York Attorney General. The amount is the largest paid out for settling COPPA-related allegations.

It is alleged YouTube collected data on its youngest users and broke the law by not gaining consent from parents beforehand. The complaint further claims the collection was made via cookies, persistent identifiers which allowed YouTube and Google to target ads to viewers.

Google claims that YouTube is a general-audience site. But, since some channels are aimed at children, YouTube as a whole must comply with COPPA.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a rule that requires online services aimed at children to provide details of their information collection and usage practices, and to obtain parental consent before collecting any personal data for users aged under 13. The rules apply not only to sites and services, but also third parties like advertising networks, in cases where they know the age of the person they are profiling.

"YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients," said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. "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."

Voted 3-to-2 in favor, the settlement also requires Google and YouTube to develop, implement, and maintain a system that allows channel owners to identify their content as child-directed, in order to ensure COPPA compliance. The channels must also be informed if their child-focused content may be subject to COPPS rules, and Google must also provide annual COPPA training to employees dealing with YouTube channel owners.

The settlement also requires both Google and Youtube to provide notice about their data collection practices and "obtain verifiable parental consent" before collecting personal information from children.

Following the settlement's announcement, a post has been published to the official YouTube blog outlining the new data practices for children's content, including limiting data collection to only information required to "support the operation of the service," and ceasing serving personalized ads on child-focused content. The post also notes updates affecting channel creators, including the use of machine learning to find videos that "clearly target young audiences."

It is also recommended for parents to use the YouTube Kids app if they plan to allow children under 13 to watch videos independently.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,283member
    Likely the reason children-centric content is being moved over to YouTube Kids? 

    Left on their own kids finds ways to either 
    - Spoof their age and ID
    - Find the ways of bypassing your parental controls
    There's even sites explaining to kids HOW to do it.
    https://m.wikihow.com/Bypass-Parental-Controls-on-a-Mac

    This site offers details on how to avoid it, at least in YouTube Kids.
    https://thecybersafetylady.com.au/2018/09/youtube-kids-parental-controls/

    Good for fining them anyway though. At least it encourages Google to try harder to avoid kids bypassing the intended controls. The next fine, if there is one, won't be so dainty. 

    BTW it's hardly a "record-setting" fine. Facebook was tagged for $5B. Still enough to get Google's attention which was the intent IMO.. 

    edited September 4 chaickamuthuk_vanalingamCarnage
  • Reply 2 of 10
    Bingo...Most kids are already spoofing their age by using fake DOB, as early as under 10 years old. No surprise as there are plentiful of contents (even on YouTube itself) teaching/guiding kids on how to do so. Just like how to bypass 'Screen Time' and most things restrictive.
  • Reply 3 of 10
    Barely enough for Google to even care. This is a joke. These big tech firms get so big that they can’t even be punished, because fines for illegal activity are just a slap on the wrist. That’s for the lawyers to deal with. 
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 4 of 10
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,460member
    Barely enough for Google to even care. This is a joke. These big tech firms get so big that they can’t even be punished, because fines for illegal activity are just a slap on the wrist. That’s for the lawyers to deal with. 
    Absolutely. $170 million may a be a “record” fine for this kind of thing but it’s chump change for Google. Hopefully the bad PR will be the actual punishment that makes Google take action. @Gatorguy says they are so let's hope that’s true.
    edited September 4 watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 10
    robjnrobjn Posts: 247member
    You’re recommending YouTube For Kids?

    As a parent I had to delete that app because of the overwhelming amount of ads between, around and within videos. It’s abusive!
    edited September 4 StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 10
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,283member
    robjn said:
    You’re recommending YouTube For Kids?

    As a parent I had to delete that app because of the overwhelming amount of ads between, around and within videos. It’s abusive!
    I don't think it's "recommended" as much as it's a better option than the grown-up version for the 12 and under crowd. 

    Anyway, in order to avoid further issue with the FTC and Youtube Google will be making the following changes.
    1. Anyone watching children's content on YouTube will be considered a child. That's a biggie. Data collection will be reduced down to the minimum necessary to "support the operation of the service" for those viewers at that time.
    2. And the second biggie...Personalized ads will stop running on children's content, child or not. See Change 1.
    3. Comments and notifications will be disabled on children's content.
    4. Content creators will be required to identify children's content, and videos will also be categorized that way via machine learning.
    5. Mandatory annual training for the company's "teams" regarding children's protections.
     
    edited September 4 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 10
    gatorguy said:
    robjn said:
    You’re recommending YouTube For Kids?

    As a parent I had to delete that app because of the overwhelming amount of ads between, around and within videos. It’s abusive!
    1. And the second biggie...Personalized ads will stop running on children's content, child or not. See Change 1.
    I hope they cancel all ads on children's content. It seems perverse to me that they can run ads, many of them adult-focused, when they know kids are watching. I never thought anything of it as a child but as a parent now, it's horrifying. I've banned YouTube for my young daughter but I know that can't last long.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 10
    Add three zero's to the fine and they will never do it again! :)

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 10
    ac88ac88 Posts: 24member
    It would seem that more and more kids these days are born at the wise old age of 14.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 10
    Google needs to die!
    But not before being sued for billions before it goes! 
    Tusa has a very light view childrens’ rights
    watto_cobra
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