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YouTube fined in US after violating children’s privacy law

Video site YouTube has been fined $136 million (£111 million) by the US Federal Trade Commission. Credit: Nick Ansell/PA

YouTube has been fined £111 million ($136 million) to settle allegations it was collecting children’s personal data without their parents’ consent.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found the video-streaming site violated a law that requires parental consent before companies can collect children’s personal information, otherwise known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The Google-owned site allegedly used the collected information to deliver targeted adverts to young viewers.

YouTube claimed the platform is not just for children, but for the general public, and so they do not need to comply with the COPPA.

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“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons.

“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."

New York state Attorney General Letitia James brought claims against YouTube. Credit: AP

Google will also pay an additional £27.9 million ($34 million) to New York state to resolve similar allegations by the state's Attorney General Letitia James.

“Google and YouTube knowingly and illegally monitored, tracked, and served targeted ads to young children just to keep advertising dollars rolling in,” she said in a statement.

“These companies put children at risk and abused their power, which is why we are imposing major reforms to their practices and making them pay one of the largest settlements for a privacy matter in US history.

"My office is committed to protecting children and holding those who put our kids in harm’s way — both on and offline — accountable.”

This penalty is the largest the FTC has given Google, though it pales in comparison to the £4.1 billion ($5 billion) fine the agency imposed against fellow tech giant Facebook earlier this year, for privacy violations and their involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.