Google has agreed to pay a record $170 million settlement on Wednesday after the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General said YouTube, its video subsidiary, collected personal and private information from children without their parents’ consent.
YouTube, according to the FTC, violated the law by using cookies to track users across the internet and grab personal information without parents’ consent. The company then made millions of dollars off its information by serving underage viewers with targeted ads, according to the FTC.
The company will pay $136 million to the FTC and another $34 million to the state of New York for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The FTC said the $136 million payment is “by far” the largest amount paid for a COPPA violation since it was passed by Congress in 1998; TikTok had set the previous record when it paid $5.7 million earlier this year.
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“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. “Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, 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.”
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki responded to the settlement in a Wednesday blog post and outlined changes the internet’s dominant video site will make.
“We are changing how we treat data for children’s content on YouTube,” Wojcicki said. “Starting in about 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. This means that we will limit data collection and use on videos made for kids only to what is needed to support the operation of the service.”
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Wojcicki added YouTube will stop serving personalized ads on content made for kids and require creators to say whether their content is aimed at minors. YouTube will also use machine learning tools to spot “videos that clearly target young audiences,” Wojcicki said, as well as invest more in promoting YouTube Kids.
“Responsibility is our number one priority at YouTube, and nothing is more important than protecting kids and their privacy,” she added.
You can read the full blog post here.
YouTube’s changes come as part of its settlement, with the FTC requiring it to stop collecting data on minors and have its creators start labeling videos made for kids. YouTube has been notoriously tight-lipped about how much it makes off advertisements, but analysts estimate it’s brought in $15 billion in the last year, according to Financial Times.