FTC Hands YouTube Biggest Fine to Date for COPPA Violations

YouTube (owned by Google, Inc.) was recently ordered to pay a $170 million dollar settlement for violations against children’s privacy. The company was found guilty of collecting children’s personal information and using those details for advertising purposes without parental consent, which is a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Act (COPPA).

The $5 billion settlement is the biggest fine a company has had to pay for violating COPPA to date. Parents of children impacted by the privacy breach will not see any of that money. $136 million will be given to the Federal Trade Commission (overseers of COPPA violations) and $34 million will be given to New York State.

A New Day for COPPA

However, the judgment did include new terms that YouTube must abide by when targeting children under the age of 13. YouTube must create and maintain a system that requires channel owners to warn viewers that content is targeted to children (which will likely include a consent form or other type of legal acknowledgment).

Further, YouTube has to provide employees that oversee channel maintenance with COPPA compliance training materials. The company must also submit compliance reports (and action plans) to the State of New York in September of 2020 followed by detailed compliance records for a period of 10 years.

More Than a Slap

This is the first time that the FTC has demanded content owners on a public channel abide by COPPA guidelines. The requirements set forth by the FTC will be difficult for YouTube to uphold given that channels are run by a general audience and only overseen by YouTube employees.

Some argue that the recent rulings will interfere with advertising revenue and may cause YouTube harm financially. On the flip side, the new ruling has set the bar for other platforms displaying open content to children. The tech world will wait to see what YouTube comes up with in order to comply with the new ruling but it won’t be easy.