A US regulator has fined Google’s video-sharing site YouTube $170m over children’s privacy laws. YouTube did not object the fine. It agreed to pay the sum to settle the charges with the Federal Trade Commission.
YouTube was accused of illegally harvesting data on children below 13, without consent, the data which was used for commercial purpose to target the children. According to the FTC, this contravenes the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa).
Joe Simons, FTC Chairman rebuked YouTube saying that the site had no excuse for the violation. He said that YouTube refused to acknowledge that a part of its aims was directed at children. It presented a different picture to business clients, when in reality, its purpose was strictly for commercial gains.
YouTube claims to be the hub of reaching children between the ages 6-11 against other top TV channels. However, this is not what it is. It has proven overtime that its priority is financially motivated.
The video-sharing will have to pay $136m to the commission and another $34m to the state of New York. This will be the largest fine ever in a Coppa case; yet, Rohit Chopra, one of the five FTC commissioners said he thought the settlement didn’t go far enough. In his opinion, YouTube should pay a huge fine. He argued that “the company baited children using nursery rhymes, cartoons, and other kid-directed content on curated YouTube channels to feed its massively profitable behavioural advertising business.”
“The FTC’s @YouTube children’s privacy settlement is a giveaway to @Google. The agency repeats mistakes from the flawed Facebook settlement: a penalty that barely bites, no individual accountability, and insufficient fixes to flawed incentives,” he said on Twitter.
As part of the new polies that accompany the settlement with the FTC, YouTube is required to create a system that will clearly indicate whatever content is directed at Children, instead of hiding under the umbrella of featuring rhymes and cartoons.
YouTube’s chief executive Susan Wojcicki said the video-streaming site would use artificial intelligence to label videos targeted at children especially those with emphasis on kids’ characters and games. The site is also required to be explicit about how it harvests information from its users.
YouTube says it will also stop targeting ads based on information it has gathered about user who had watched children’s videos. In other words, it will stop targeting a specific audience for commercial purpose.
“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,” Ms Wojcicki.