The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday announced that it is fining Google $170 million following the agency’s investigation into YouTube over alleged violations of a children’s privacy law.
In the settlement, the FTC and the New York attorney general allege that Google marketed its video platform, YouTube, to advertisers knowing that many channels were popular with younger audiences. It also alleges that the company tracked the viewing histories of children in order to serve them ads, which violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
In a statement FTC chairman Joe Simons said: “YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients. 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.”
The settlement was agreed to on a 3-2 party-line vote, with the Republican commissioners voting to approve it.
The settlement also requires that Google make new changes to its business practices, like requiring creators to label content intended for younger audiences and halting the data collection on videos clearly targeting minors. It’s unclear how YouTube has defined content that targets minors, but it said in the blog that its algorithms will seek to label content that has an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys, or games.
In a blog post responding to the settlement on Wednesday, YouTube wrote, “Starting in 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. This means that we will limit data collection and use on videos made for kids only to what is needed to support the operation of the service.”
YouTube also noted that comments and notifications will no longer be available on children’s content like this as well. The platform will also stop serving targeted ads on this kind of content.