Google agreed to pay a record $170 million fine Wednesday to settle an investigation into YouTube by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and New York’s attorney general.
Of the $170 million, $136 million will be paid directly to the FTC, which approved the settlement 3-2, and $34 million be paid to the state of New York, according to the NYT.
The investigation came after a June 3 NYT report that YouTube’s algorithm essentially directed videos of children in bathing suits to users who watched other videos of prepubescent kids. (RELATED: FTC’s Republican Members Hit YouTube For Violating Children’s Privacy Rights: Report)
The FTC received complaints that YouTube’s video recommendations were in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prevents companies from tracking and targeting of users younger than 13.
“We reached a record $170M settlement with Youtube [and] Google for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act for serving targeted ads to users watching videos meant for children. These companies risked children’s personal info [and] abused their powers for profits,” New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James wrote on Twitter.
We reached a record $170M settlement with Youtube & Google for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act for serving targeted ads to users watching videos meant for children.
These companies risked children’s personal info & abused their powers for profits.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) September 4, 2019
FTC Chairman Joe Simons said the Commission’s “judgment is [three times] larger than any privacy penalty assessed against Google anywhere else in the world. It’s [ten times] larger than the civil penalties we have obtained in all of our 31 prior COPPA cases combined,” in a Wednesday Twitter post.
Judgment is 3x larger than any privacy penalty assessed against Google anywhere else in the world. It’s 10x larger than the civil penalties we have obtained in all of our 31 prior COPPA cases combined. pic.twitter.com/twLun8kd6c
— Joe Simons (@JoeSimonsFTC) September 4, 2019
Some have criticized the $170 million settlement for being an inadequate punishment against the tech giant, which is currently valued at over $300 billion, according to CNBC.
“I think the message here is that when the [FTC] did have a privacy law to enforce, it refused to do so. The punishment should’ve been at least half-a-billion dollars. It’s scandalous. It sends the signal that you, in fact, can break a privacy law and get away largely scot-free,” Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeff Chester told Politico on Aug. 30.
“The critical challenge for the FTC is whether it has the ability to restrain business practices that violate privacy. Imposing large fines does not address that problem,” Chester added.
Google revenue in:
2014: $66 billion
2015: $75 billion
2016: $90 billion
2017: $110 billion
2018: $136 billion
The FTC had the authority to impose tens of billions in fines against Google for improper corporate surveillance of children.
This fine is an absolute joke. https://t.co/6smw9onb8y
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) September 4, 2019
Facebook agreed to pay a record $5 billion settlement to the FTC in July and promised new privacy guarantees after violating the terms of its 2011 settlement “by deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information,” a July 24 statement from the agency reads.
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