On September 4, 2019, the FTC announced that Google LLC and its subsidiary YouTube, LLC will pay a record $170 million to settle allegations by the FTC and the New York Attorney General that the YouTube video sharing service illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent. Here FTC staff give an explanation of what the settlement will mean for parents.
Cathy MacFarlane: Hi. I’m Cathy MacFarlane with the Federal Trade Commission, and I’m here today with Peder Magee, a senior attorney in the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. We’re here today to talk to you about the $170 million settlement that the FTC just had between YouTube and Google. The settlement stems from allegations that YouTube and its parent company Google violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, also known as COPPA.
So, Peder, can you tell us a little bit about the settlement?
Peder Magee: So we allege in our lawsuit that the companies violated COPPA. COPPA is a federal statute that requires websites and online services that are directed to kids under the age of 13 to provide notice and obtain parental consent before they collect information from kids. And our lawsuit alleges that the companies were collecting personal information from kids who were watching child-directed content on the YouTube platform.
Cathy MacFarlane: What kind of personal information did they collect?
Peder Magee: Well, primarily they were collecting cookies, which are identifiers that allow the companies to track users across the Internet. As they surf the web, it allows them to follow the user wherever they go and see what they look at.
Cathy MacFarlane: And why is that a concern to parents?
Peder Magee: Well, a lot of parents may not be comfortable with the idea of marketers following their kids around online, creating profiles about them, and directing targeted advertising to them.
Cathy MacFarlane: So will things be different now? What does the settlement do?
Peder Magee: Well, the settlement does a number of things. It requires the company to develop a classifier that allows the channel owners, the people that upload the content onto YouTube, to designate their child-directed content. And for that content, the company will stop collecting personal information from users.
Cathy MacFarlane: Will parents see any difference?
Peder Magee: A lot of the changes are gonna affect the companies’ data collection practices that are sort of behind the scenes. So parents may not necessarily notice a large difference. Certain features of child directed content, things like commenting functions may be disabled.
Cathy MacFarlane: Do you have any advice for parents as they go forward and their children go online?
Peder Magee: Well I think it’s always a good idea to talk to your kids about things like online safety and the implications of sharing your data online. But also parents should know when their kids are online and what types of things they’re looking at.
Cathy MacFarlane: Exactly. So thank you very much Peder, and thank you for listening in. if you would like more information about this case or more advice on how to protect your children online please go to ftc.gov. Thanks.