In brief: The FTC is expected to make the details of the settlement public in the coming week with Google reportedly paying over $150 million for violating children’s online privacy laws. As was the case with Facebook, the deal is likely to come with conditions attached, and Google is already taking some precautions to avoid more regulatory scrutiny in the future.
Google quietly launched YouTube Kids for the web yesterday, just days ahead of an official FTC announcement of a settlement regarding the company’s violation of children’s online privacy laws. According to a report by Politico, Google has agreed to pay anywhere between $150 million and $200 million in a deal that was approved through a 3-2 vote.
The FTC took issue with the company’s data collection and ad targeting practices on YouTube, which were found to be in breach of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The newly released website for YouTube Kids features content filters and policy changes that are most likely a result of the settlement. The company has banned violent videos that are marketed towards children as well as targeted ads for videos that make it through the new filter.
These changes could make the category less profitable for creators, as there are studies that have shown it generates a lot more views and engagement than other types of video content on the platform. Still, there’s no guarantee that kids won’t just work around any restrictions implemented by Google, and there are indications that once they discover the standard YouTube experience, they won’t go back to the children-friendly one.
Several consumer privacy groups are now up in flames about the news, with the overall sentiment being that the FTC has let yet another powerful company “off the hook” with a relatively insignificant punishment.
Josh Golin, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, noted that regulators 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.”
Other organizations like Public Citizen similarly believe that the FTC fine is inadequate for a company the size of Google and are pushing the idea of creating a new “data protection agency” into the realm of public debate. This comes after the FTC levied a $5 billion fine against Facebook for privacy breaches that pales in comparison to the $55 billion in annual turnaround for the social giant.