The US government accuses the video hosting platform of illegally tracking and targeting users under the age of 13, while privacy advocates ring alarms over channels that claim to be are adult-targeted but feature material for minors instead.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has finalized a settlement with Google over a probe into YouTube’s mishandling of child privacy online, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing sources familiar with the matter.
The settlement reportedly finds that Google failed to adequately protect kids using its video hosting platform and improperly collected data in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prohibits tracking and targeting users under the age of 13.
Per the settlement, Google will pay several millions of dollars in fines, but exact figures remain undisclosed, the report says. The US Justice Department will have the final say on the deal, the Post says.
Google is one of the four tech giants – alongside Facebook, Apple and Amazon – who are currently under scrutiny by the FTC and the Justice Department. Earlier this week, US lawmakers subpoenaed company executives over a House investigation into anti-competitive business practices.
Earlier this month, the FTC approved a record-high $5 billion settlement with Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a massive dump of private user information was leaked due to mishandling.
While COPPA bans tech companies from tracking and targeting children under 13, the law only applies to websites or apps that are either explicitly targeted to minors or have “actual knowledge” that users are under 13. While privacy advocates complain that many YouTube channels that advertise themselves as for people over 13 actually feature content aimed at children, the video hosting company insists that children can watch videos with parental permission and the website has no possible way of knowing whether children received these permissions. The FTC recently embarked on a program to “rethink how it enforces COPPA,” The Washington Post reads.