The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has voted to impose a fine of between $150 and $200 million on Google to settle accusations that its YouTube subsidiary violated a childrens’ privacy law.
According to a report by Politico, the tech giant is accused of illegally collecting personal information about children, according to three people briefed on the matter.
The fine is the largest the FTC has yet leveled against Google, although it is tiny compared to the $5 billion fine the FTC imposed against Facebook this year for privacy violations.
The FTC has been investigating YouTube for the way it handles the data of kids under the age of 13. Young children are protected by a federal law that requires parental consent before companies can collect and share their personal information.
FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement:
YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients, … [but] 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.”
The vote was 3-2 by the FTC commissioners, with Simons and the two other Republicans approving the terms of the settlement and the two Democrats opposing them.
It was discovered last month that YouTube is allegedly planning to ban targeted ads on videos aimed at children. However, it is not clear whether YouTube’s decision to do so was related to the FTC settlement.
The FTC launched the investigation after advocacy groups charged that YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting data for children under the age of 13.
Those complaints allegedly date back as far as 2015. This isn’t the first time the FTC has come down on big tech companies for privacy violations.
Earlier this summer, Facebook agreed to a $5 billion settlement. Until now, the FTC’s largest fine for COPPA violations was the $5.7 million settlement it reached with TikTok in February.
Some have suggested that YouTube disable ads on all videos aimed at kids, and others have called for YouTube to move all of its children’s content to a designated app. As companies like TikTok have found, it can be difficult to enforce age checks.
The case could have significant repercussions for other popular platforms used by young children in the United States. The settlement will now be reviewed by the Justice Department.
It is unclear how Google intends to remedy the issue.