Google to pay FTC up to $200M to settle YouTube probe: report

Google to pay FTC up to $200M to settle YouTube probe: report
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Google will pay up to $200 million in a settlement reached with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that YouTube violated children’s privacy laws, Politico reported on Friday.

The fine is reportedly between $150 million and $200 million, an amount that is already drawing ire from privacy advocates who believe it falls far short of making any sort of dent against such a massive company.

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“Once again, this FTC appears to have let a powerful company off the hook with a nominal fine for violating users’ privacy online,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid States, green groups challenge rollback of Obama-era lightbulb rules Overnight Energy: Dems ask Trump UN ambassador to recuse from Paris climate dealings | Green group sues agencies for records on climate science | Dem wants answers on Keystone oil spill MORE (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “And in this case, intrusions on children’s personal information are at issue."

"I look forward to reviewing the requirements placed upon Google in this settlement, but I am disappointed that the Commission appears poised to once again come out with a partisan settlement that that falls short of the Commission’s responsibility to consumers and risks normalizing corporate bad behavior,” he added.

Both Google and the FTC declined to comment.

Privacy groups have pushed the FTC to come down hard on YouTube, which is owned by Google, alleging that the site has systematically violated children’s privacy over the years.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits websites from collecting data on children under the age of 13 without obtaining their parents' permission. Advocates at groups such as the Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) have argued that YouTube routinely violates those restrictions.

"We are glad that our advocacy has compelled the FTC to act and finally hold Google accountable for years of COPPA violations," Josh Golin, CCFC's executive director, said in a statement on Friday. "However, if the FTC fines Google only $200 million, that’s terribly inadequate. They have allowed YouTube to build a children’s media empire through illegal means that now, no one can compete with; all for the cost of a fine which is the equivalent of two to three months of YouTube ad revenue. They should levy a fine which both levels the playing field, and serves as a deterrent to future COPPA violations. This fine would do neither."

The details of the settlement are still unclear, but last month privacy activists were alarmed when the FTC indicated to them that it was considering an agreement they believed did not do enough to address YouTube’s conduct.

The Washington Post reported last month that the FTC had approved the settlement.

But activists were also heartened this week to see that YouTube was building a separate site for children's content. The company is also reportedly planning to stop monetizing children's videos.

"We are encouraged by reports that, as a result of our advocacy, YouTube will no longer serve manipulative behavioral ads to children," Golin said. "But we await the terms of the final settlement to determine whether these changes will be actually be meaningful. It is extremely concerning that Google has not removed kids' content from the main YouTube site, and it's unclear how children who watch there will be protected from Google's surveillance."

—Updated at 2:24 p.m.