The US Federal Trade Commission is fining Google between $US150 million and $US200 million ($222.6 million to $296.8 million) to settle the whole debacle with its subsidiary, YouTube, allegedly breaking children’s privacy law, Politico first reported this week.
While details about the settlement haven’t been officially announced, a person familiar with the matter told Politico the measure gained FTC approval with a 3-2 vote along party lines, seeming to confirm similar reports from The Washington Post last month. After gaining FTC approval, the settlement would go on to the US Justice Department for review.
Reports of the FTC’s investigation into the online video platform originally surfaced in June after several privacy groups claimed YouTube collected data on its youngest viewers without parental consent in an effort to serve them ads. This would violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which limits how companies can scrape data from users younger than 13.
News of Google’s possible settlement comes just weeks after the FTC lobbed a $US5 billion ($7 billion) fine at Facebook after an investigation found the company compromised millions of users personal data. Several politicians and privacy advocates criticised this penalty as too lenient, particularly when compared to Facebook’s earnings (reportedly $US15.08 billion ($22 billion) in the first quarter of this year alone).
And these critics may have similar complaints if this settlement amount gets the FTC’s official stamp of approval. While $US200 million ($296.8 million) is massive compared to penalties the commission has previously handed down for similar violations, such as the $US5.7 million ($8.5 million) fine it levied earlier this year against TikTok, such an amount is dwarfed by Google’s revenue.
For reference, last year the company took in well over $US100 billion ($148 billion) just in advertising.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that YouTube is “finalising plans” to cut targeted ads from videos aimed at children, per three sources Bloomberg spoke with.
In the wake of these privacy concerns, YouTube quietly announced earlier this week that it’s launching a website version of its mobile app geared towards kids. This version will debut with three settings allocated for specific age ranges, and hopefully won’t be plagued by those disturbing videos that previously landed the YouTube Kids app in hot water.
Bloomberg also recently reported the company is “finalising plans” to stop targeting ads to kids, according to sources familiar with the matter.