The fines include $136 million for the most recent charges, while the company will pay another $34 million to settle similar claims brought previously by NY state's attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Wednesday. Organizations including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Center for Digital Democracy filed multiple complaints at the FTC, pointing to YouTube's own marketing materials that crowed about its popularity among users, as a sign that the company was fully aware that children under age 13 were watching videos there. The company also launched a website version of the service in August.
Regulators charged that Google knew certain YouTube channels were popular among younger viewers, touted this fact to brands and advertisers, and tracked kids' viewing histories for the objective of serving them targeted advertisements, ultimately raking in "millions of dollars" as a result of its repeated violations of federal children's privacy laws.
YouTube has been fined a record $170m (£139m) by a U.S. regulator for violating children's privacy laws.
In late August, YouTube announced it would launch YouTube Kids with separate niches for children depending on their ages and created to exclude disturbing videos.
COPPA requires online websites to obtain parental consent prior to collecting kids' information. In a blog post Wednesday, YouTube said, "Responsibility is our number one priority at YouTube, and nothing is more important than protecting kids and their privacy".
"YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients", FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement.
YouTube Kids does not target ads based on viewer interests the way the main YouTube service does. And it could affect the strategies of all creators of children's videos on YouTube, including large companies such as Mattel (MAT) and Hasbro (HAS), according to federal officials.
The vote was 3-2 by the FTC commissioners, with Simons and the two other Republicans approving the terms of the settlement and the two Democrats opposing them.
The two dissenting commissioners, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, said the penalties put forth against YouTube and Google did not go far enough. It has no behavioral advertising.
The FTC settlement with Google marks the latest effort to probe and penalize tech giants for their privacy mishaps, a series of punishments that have served as a litmus test - even within the agency itself - about its power to police Silicon Valley.
We asked YouTube for clarification on how ads will be targeted to children's content going forward.
The Federal Trade Commission is fining Google's video site YouTube $136 million to settle allegations it collected children's personal data without their parents' consent.
Indeed, the fine will barely dent Google's finances. Meanwhile, YouTube parent company Alphabet Inc. reported revenue of $38.9 billion for its most recent financial quarter. In one case, comments that pedophiles left on innocuous family videos of kids pushed YouTube to turn off comments on almost all videos featuring kids.
The $136m fine is the largest penalty collected under COPPA since the law was enacted in 1998, and is considerably larger than the previous record fine of $5.7m, given to video site TikTok in February.