YouTube under federal investigation over children’s privacy: report

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is wrapping up an investigation into YouTube’s handling of children’s videos that could result in large fines for the company, The Washington Post reported.

The investigation reportedly comes after consumer groups filed complaints with the FTC alleging that YouTube was violating children’s privacy laws by collecting data on kids without obtaining parental consent.

The Post reported that the probe is in its late stages, meaning that the two sides could be nearing a settlement, but the exact status of the investigation and its scope are unclear.

{mosads}It’s also unclear how large a fine is being considered.

“Google has been violating federal child privacy laws for years,” Jeffrey Chester, the head of the Center for Digital Democracy, which has filed complaints against YouTube with FTC, told the Post.

The news comes hours after The Wall Street Journal reported that Google, YouTube’s parent company, is exploring major changes to its platform to better protect children. One of the proposals reportedly under discussion among executives would involve moving all children’s videos to a standalone YouTube Kids app.

Both the FTC and YouTube declined to comment.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, praised the news and promised to introduce a bill aimed at curtailing internet companies’ efforts to exploit children.

“An FTC investigation into YouTube’s treatment of children online is long overdue,” Markey said in a statement. “It is no secret that kids flock to YouTube every day, but the company has yet to take the necessary steps to protect its youngest users. I am pleased to see reports that the FTC is working to hold YouTube accountable for its actions.

Updated at 4:23 p.m.

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