Recap: The FTC is upping the ante with their fines for privacy breaches. Their latest target is Google's YouTube, after an investigation revealed that the company was illegally tracking how minors were using their platform.
Hot off the heels of the $5 billion fine for Facebook's repeated privacy breaches, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly finalizing a multimillion dollar fine for YouTube.
An investigation by the FTC reportedly concluded that Google failed to protect children using YouTube and collected their data, in breach of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The act prohibits data collection and targeting of children aged 13 and under. Two sources have confirmed the news to The Washington Post, though both Google and the FTC have refused to comment. The next stage requires the Justice Department to agree to the undisclosed fine and any associated conditions, though the Department rarely goes against FTC rulings.
The recent Facebook fine came with some conditions attached, notably requiring greater documentation of potential privacy concerns and getting confirmation from company executives that adequate regard was being paid to how personal data is used in future. It seems likely that the FTC's action against Google will come with similar stipulations.
Given that tracking and data collection are fundamentals of how platforms such as YouTube operate, it's tricky to say how Google should change their practices for under 13s. With videos for very young children, often such content is visited through parents' accounts with an adult present, so tracking may be perfectly legal. Plus children under 13 aren't meant to be allowed to have their own accounts, so account-tracking should be fine. But the reality is somewhat different, as kids between about 7 and 13 are likely to be viewing content regardless of any of YouTube's own policies.
Once details of the settlement are public, it will be interesting to see what the additional requirements are, and how Google plans to implement them.