The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is fining Google between $150 million (£123.3 million) and $200 million (£163.5 million) to settle the whole debacle with its subsidiary, YouTube, allegedly breaking children’s privacy law, Politico first reported on Friday.
While details about the settlement haven’t been officially announced, a person familiar with the matter told Politico the measure gained FTC approval with a 3-2 vote along party lines, seeming to confirm similar reports (paywall) from the Washington Post last month. After gaining FTC approval, the settlement would go on to the U.S. Justice Department for review.
Reports of the FTC’s investigation into the online video platform originally surfaced in June after several privacy groups claimed YouTube collected data on its youngest viewers without parental consent in an effort to serve them ads. This would violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which limits how companies can scrape data from users younger than 13.
News of Google’s possible settlement comes just weeks after the FTC lobbed a $5 billion (£4.1 billion) fine at Facebook following an investigation that found the company compromised millions of users' personal data. Several politicians and privacy advocates criticised this penalty as too lenient, particularly when compared to Facebook’s earnings (reportedly $15.08 billion (£12.4 billion) in the first quarter of this year alone).
And these critics may have similar complaints if this settlement amount gets the FTC’s official stamp of approval. While £164.5 million is massive compared to penalties the commission has previously handed down for similar violations, like the £4.69 million fine it levied earlier this year against TikTok, such an amount is dwarfed by Google’s revenue. For reference, last year the company took in well over £82.2 billion just in advertising.
In the wake of these privacy concerns, YouTube quietly announced earlier this week that it’s launching a website version of its mobile app geared towards kids. This version will debut with three settings allocated for specific age ranges, and hopefully won’t be plagued by those disturbing videos that previously landed the YouTube Kids app in hot water. Bloomberg reported last week that the company is “finalising plans” to stop targeting ads to kids, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Featured image: YouTube