While there has been much said over the past few years of Google gathering data on users to sell ads and make a profit, perhaps the most egregious of this practice is YouTube collecting data on children in order to sell ads for its products.
There’s a price to pay, however. Google, the parent company of YouTube, has agreed to provide new protections for children and also to pay a $170 million fine as a settlement in an investigation.
After complaints from consumer groups, the Federal Trade Commission and the New York state attorney general conducted a year-long investigation and announced they were penalizing YouTube for illegally collecting data on children under the age of 13 to sell ads and to garner high views for videos.
YouTube didn’t admit guilt in this instance as part of the settlement to pay $170 and provide new protections. In a divided judgement, two commissioners voted against the fine and change in protections.
The changes the video platform will make include switching off comments on children’s videos and turning off data collection on videos that are aimed at children, according to YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki.
You may want to keep your children offline for a few more months, however, as the charges aren’t set to go into effect until January, giving creators time to adjust to the changes.
Some FTC leaders made note of the fine far exceeding penalties paid in previous similar cases, while others sought a more pricey penalty and for YouTube to make larger changes to their business practices.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who has frequently been critical of tech companies, tweeted the fine YouTube will be paying is “an insult to every parent in America who has had their children’s privacy violated.”
This is far from Google’s only trouble. The U.S. Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation into the company’s search platform. Google contends its search engine is not a monopoly.
The $170 million fine is less than 2 percent of Google’s profits this past quarter. While child advocacy groups contend YouTube shouldn’t have violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the first place, the settlement demands the video platform not violate it again starting in January.
Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who voted against the settlement, said the penalty was too weak to deter YouTube from continuing the practice, complaining, “The company baited children using nursery rhymes, cartoons, and other kid-directed content on curated YouTube channels to feed its massively profitable behavioral advertising business.”
YouTube has said they “will treat data from anyone watching children’s content on YouTube as coming from a child, regardless of the age of the user.” It recommends children younger than 13 use its YouTube Kids platform when watching videos alone.
Video creators will be responsible for marking their videos aimed at children, and the option for them to serve personalized ads on children’s content will be removed. YouTube is establishing a $100 million fund for creators to develop original children’s content.
YouTube also admits these changes are necessary with the way their audience has evolved. “From its earlier days, YouTube has been a site for people over 13,” the company claimed, “but with a boom in family content and the rise of shared devices, the likelihood of children watching without supervision has increased.”
How do you feel about the settlement? Is the fine stiff enough? Will this help to protect children? Add your thoughts in the comments below.