Google to pay up to $200M fine from the FTC for alleged YouTube violations [Update]

What you need to know

  • A person familiar with the matter says Google has agreed to pay a fine to the FTC between $150 to $200 million.
  • The fine is over allegations that YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
  • The fine has been criticized as being too low and amounting to only “two to three months of YouTube ad revenue.”

Updated 9/4/2019: Just a day following this initial report, The New York Times confirmed that Google has agreed to pay a total of $170 million to the FTC for the fine. Of that $170 million, $136 million of it will be sent to the FTC with the remaining $34 million going to New York.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Google has agreed to pay a fine between $150 to $200 million handed down by the FTC. The fine comes in response to an investigation into Google’s alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, where Google collected personal information about minors in order to serve up ads without parental permission.

The source also confirmed that “the FTC voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the settlement, sending it over to the Justice Department as part of the review process.”

The FTC began its investigation after a coalition of privacy groups made complaints that YouTube was violating COPPA by not requiring parental consent before collecting data on minors.

Some of the original groups behind the complaint have been less than enthused about the amount of the fine. With the executive director of coalition leader the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Josh Golin saying, it is “the equivalent of two to three months of YouTube ad revenue.”

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Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, went even further, saying, “The punishment should’ve been at least half a billion dollars.”

It’s scandalous. It sends the signal that you in fact can break a privacy law and get away largely scot-free.

The settlement is rather small in comparison to the $5 billion dollar fine Facebook agreed to pay last month for privacy violations. However, even that fine was criticized for being too low.

Recently, lawmakers David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) have asked the FTC to require children’s videos to be moved off the main YouTube platform to YouTube Kids. Something that YouTube might already be taking steps towards by announcing that YouTube Kids will soon be available on the web. Previously, it was only available via apps for your mobile devices or smart TVs.

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