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Google Hit With $170 Million Fine for Collecting Personal Information of Children on YouTube

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Google agreed to pay a record $170 million fine after regulators said it violated children’s privacy on YouTube, The New York Times reports.

Google agreed to the fine as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General’s office. The FTC and the AG’s office said that YouTube violated federal children’s privacy laws by harvesting personal information from children who used the site and used the data to target them with advertisements.

The regulators accused Google of tracking children’s web usage without parents’ consent.

“The site also marketed itself as a top destination for young children to advertisers, even as it told some advertising companies that no compliance with the children’s privacy law was needed because it did not have viewers younger than 13,” The Times reported. “YouTube then made millions of dollars by using the information harvested from children to target them with ads, regulators said.”

YouTube agrees to make changes:

The fine, $136 million of which will go to the FTC and $34 million of which will go to New York, is the largest fine ever by the FTC. The previous record fine was a $5.7 million penalty paid by the owners of TikTok earlier this year.

Along with the fine, YouTube also agreed to create a system that requires children’s content to be labeled so that targeted ads are not placed on those videos. The company also agreed to obtain consent from parents before collecting or disseminating any personal details.

Critics say fine is not enough:

Critics say the fine was just a slap on the wrist for the multi-billion-dollar company and argued that Google merely agreed to abide by the laws already set forth in the children’s privacy law.

“Merely requiring Google to follow the law, that’s a meaningless sanction,” Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told The Times. “It’s the equivalent of a cop pulling somebody over for speeding at 110 miles an hour — and they get off with a warning.”

Rohit Chopra, a Democratic FTC commissioner who voted against the settlement, said it failed to hold any individuals at the company responsible.

“No individual accountability, insufficient remedies to address the company’s financial incentives, and a fine that still allows the company to profit from its lawbreaking,” Chopra wrote. “The terms of the settlement were not even significant enough to make Google issue a warning to its investors.”