Google reportedly has agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation into whether it violated children’s privacy laws in the way that it collected information and targeted advertisements to minors.
Politico reported Friday that the settlement could total up to $200 million. An FTC spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. A Google spokesperson had no comment.
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The whopping settlement figure speaks to the closer scrutiny government agencies are paying to tech platforms, and a shifting sentiment in Washington. Lobbyists for traditional media companies have long complained that Silicon Valley companies weren’t getting the rigorous attention from federal regulators, including when it came to the way that children’s programming is regulated on broadcast platforms.
Even though the fine is extensive, critics say that the FTC did not go far enough. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said that the FTC “appears to have let YouTube off the hook for violating users’ privacy online. And in this case, Google’s intrusions on kids’ personal info are at issue. We must come down hard on companies that infringe on children’s privacy.”
Markey was the author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which restricts the collection and use of personal information from children on the Internet. He recently introduced legislation to expand its protections.
The Washington Post reported in July that the FTC was in the late stages of an investigation into YouTube’s practices, following complaints from advocacy and consumer groups. One of the groups, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, said that the reported settlement was “inadequate.”
YouTube this week launched YouTubeKids.com, where parents will have more control of the content that kids see as well as a watch history. YouTube said in announcing the site it will “create a safer environment for kids to explore their interests and curiosity, while giving parents the tools to customize the experience for their kids.” YouTube last week announced it was removing videos that target younger minors and families yet contain sexual themes, violence and obscenity that are not suitable for kids.