Google, a company used to falling foul of regulators, has agreed a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of up to $200 million following an investigation into YouTube child privacy practices.
Of course, $200 million is loose change down the back of the sofa for Google, but this is yet another example of the company flaunting privacy laws. Politico reports the settlement has yet to be officially announced. However, voting has been complete, and the Justice Department will likely approve.
Earlier this year, it emerged the FTC was investigating Google, and more specifically YouTube. The regulator said Google was breaching child privacy laws. Watchdogs claimed YouTube collects viewer data, which it does.
This data includes child viewers, who were being monitored without parental consent. The data was being collected towards Google's ever-present ultimate goal… being able to target ads. By taking data from children, YouTube was in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
Senator Ed Markey says he wants to see which restrictions have been placed on Google. However, he lamented the fact the company was able to once again come away with a light punishment:
“I look forward to reviewing the requirements placed upon Google in this settlement, but I am disappointed that the Commission appears poised to once again come out with a partisan settlement that falls short of the Commission's responsibility to consumers and risks normalizing corporate bad behavior.”
Fines Don't Work
Google has already been handed the two largest anti-trust fines in history. The company was forced to pay $2.7 billion for breaching competition laws around its shopping search results.
Last year, Google was fined $5 billion by regulators in Europe. The Commission says the fine regards three restrictions Google placed on Android device OEMs. Under European laws the restrictions break antitrust regulations.
Josh Golin, Executive Director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told Gizmodo the punishment is weak and allows Google to exploit children.
“They have allowed YouTube to build a children's media empire through illegal means that now, no one can compete with; all for the cost of a fine which is the equivalent of two to three months of YouTube ad revenue. They should levy a fine which both levels the playing field and serves as a deterrent to future COPPA violations. This fine would do neither.”