Google has agreed to pay $170 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and New York’s attorney general over charges that YouTube had made millions of dollars over the years from violating children’s privacy laws.
The fine is by far the largest ever imposed on a website for violations of the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires companies to obtain parental consent before collecting data on children under the age of 13.
Google and YouTube will pay $136 million to the FTC and the remaining $34 million will go to the New York attorney general’s office.
The FTC alleged that YouTube violated COPPA by collecting the personal information of users who watched videos that were clearly directed toward children and then used that data to serve up targeted advertising.
“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said in a statement. “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.”
Under the agreement, YouTube will also have to require content creators uploading videos to designate whether or not they’re intended for children. Last week, the site announced that it was launching a separate site for children’s content.
The latest penalty is considerably higher than the previous record COPPA fine, which came earlier this year when the popular social media platform TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million to the FTC.
Wednesday’s settlement marks the third time the FTC has sanctioned Google over privacy violations since 2011. That year, the company entered into a consent agreement with regulators over charges that it had deceived users about its privacy practices. A year later, the FTC fined Google $22.5 million for violating the consent agreement by tracking users of Apple’s Safari browser without their knowledge.
Children’s privacy advocates have repeatedly complained about YouTube’s practices to regulators over the years, alleging that the company was collecting substantial profits by systematically violating COPPA.