The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and New York Attorney General announced today that YouTube and Google will pay a record setting $170 million dollars to settle allegations of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rules.
The settlement comes after a complaint alleged that YouTube was utilizing cookies, for direct advertising and to track users across the internet from child-directed channels, without first notifying parents and obtaining consent to do so. The COPPA Rules require child-directed websites and online services to provide notice of their information practices and obtain parental consent prior to collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.
The complaint also alleged that channel owners told YouTube that their content was directed to children and in some cases that YouTube’s own content rating system identified the content as directed at children. The FTC and NY Attorney General found that despite this knowledge, You Tube collected information and targeted advertisements on these channels, thereby failing to comply with COPPA.
While YouTube claimed that they were a general audience site, the FTC and NY Attorney General noted that YouTube marketed themselves as a top destination for kids in their presentations to makers of popular children’s products and brands.
In addition to the hefty monetary penalty, the proposed settlement requires Google and YouTube to develop, implement, and maintain a system that permits channel owners to identify their child-directed content on the YouTube platform. As well, the companies must notify channel owners that their child-directed content may be subject to COPPA Rules. They must also provide annual training about complying with COPPA for employees who deal with channel owners.
It is almost impossible these days to surf the internet anonymously, in fact many websites require use of cookie tracking before they will allow access to their website. Interestingly, Google Chrome offers an ‘incognito’ mode for user. Unfortunately, some websites have caught on and are implementing tools to detect when a visitor is in private mode.
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