The global video-sharing site YouTube has agreed to pay $170 million in fines for violating children’s privacy laws.
YouTube, owned by Google, will pay the U.S. Federal Trade and Commission $136 million along with $34 million to New York state for violating the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, by not receiving parental consent to collect data on children under the age of 13. The agreement – the largest settlement since the act went into effect – comes after the FTC and New York Attorney General Letitia James filed state and federal lawsuits against YouTube for using “cookies” to track online users and using that information to target ads to children.
“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said. “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.”
Along with the fines, YouTube will stop serving personalized ads and disable comments and notifications on content made for children, said YouTube CEO Stacey Wojcicki.
“Responsibility is our number one priority at YouTube, and nothing is more important than protecting kids and their privacy,” Wojcicki said in a statement. “Starting in about 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.”
Wojcicki acknowledged the new changes will have “a significant business impact on family and kids creators who have been building both wonderful content and thriving businesses.”
“We recognize this won’t be easy for some creators and are committed to working with them through this transition and providing resources to help them better understand these changes,” she said.
YouTube content creators have four months to transition to the new policy, which requires them to report if their content falls into the children’s category. YouTube also will implement an algorithm to identify videos that feature content such as toys or games that target children.
Wojcicki recommended parents with children under the age of 13 use the YouTube Kids app, which will have increased funding following the FTC and New York state agreement. The funding will go toward promoting the YouTube Kids option, including bringing the app to the desktop.
YouTube also is establishing a $100 million fund to help create beneficial content for children. The fund will be distributed to creators globally over three years.
The $170 million fines against YouTube come after the FTC recently fined Facebook $5 billion – the largest in FTC history – for violating users’ privacy by allowing the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to gain access to about 87 million users’ data without their permission.