YouTube was reportedly using children’s personal information in their algorithms
With all of our personal data being collected online, sometimes it feels like we are living in a “Big Brother” kind of world, which is a little scary. However, it is downright terrifying that our children are being targeted, too. That’s why the Federal Trade Commission has very strict laws preventing big tech companies from collecting personal information from minors and using it in their programming and advertising algorithms.
Despite the law, many companies are still doing it anyway. According to a new report, after a recent FTC investigation into YouTube, Google is the latest company to majorly violate children’s privacy laws — and they have agreed to pay between $150 and $200 million.
By Federal law, online services cannot collect personal information from children under 13 unless there is parental consent. The government agency started looking into YouTube’s data collecting practices after a coalition of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act privacy groups claimed that they were not only collecting personal information from minors, but using it to target advertisements toward them — without getting their parents permission.
Politico reports that the FTC voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the settlement, which is now in the hands of the justice department.
Several other media companies have been fined for violating privacy laws in the last year. Facebook recently agreed to fork over $5 billion while Musical.ly (aka TikTok) had a $5.7 million fine slapped on them in February.
While these might seem like huge fines, groups behind the original COPPA complaints point out that most of them (minus the Facebook fine) are peanuts for these huge tech companies, and that many of them will continue to violate the law.
“They should levy a fine which both levels the playing field, and serves as a deterrent to future COPPA violations. This fine would do neither,” Josh Golin, executive director of coalition leader for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said in a statement about the latest Google fine, pointing out that the fine was “the equivalent of two to three months of YouTube ad revenue.”
Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told Politico that the punishment should have been at least a half a billion dollars. “It’s scandalous. It sends the signal that you in fact can break a privacy law and get away largely scot-free,” he said.
Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who helped write the children’s privacy law, was also disappointed with the judgement. “Once again, this FTC appears to have let a powerful company off the hook with a nominal fine for violating users’ privacy online,” he said in a statement.
For parents, this is a much-needed reminder that are kids are not “safe” on the internet. While the government is taking strides to protect minors, ultimately it is our job to monitor their internet activity and do whatever policing we find necessary.
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