As an update to our previous blog posts, the FTC announced that it and the New York Attorney General reached a $170 million agreement with Google to resolve allegations that the company violated COPPA through its YouTube platform. Under the agreement, Google will pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York. The FTC voted 3-2 to authorize the action.
According to the complaint, Google violated COPPA by collecting persistent device identifiers (defined by the law as personal information) from users who visited YouTube’s numerous child-directed channels and delivering behavioral advertising to those users without first obtaining verifiable parental consent. The complaint alleges that Google was aware of such collections, citing presentations Google made to toy companies touting the platform’s popularity among young children. The complaint also cites Google’s rating system that identified content as intended for children, and Google’s manual curation of content from these channels to appear on its separate YouTube Kids platform. Google is alleged to have earned millions of dollars in behaviorally targeted advertising delivered on its child-directed channels.
The proposed settlement requires Google to: (1) develop, implement, and maintain a system that permits YouTube channel owners to identify their content as child-directed, and that informs channel owners that child-directed content may be subject to COPPA; (2) provide annual COPPA compliance training to Google personnel responsible for managing the company’s relationships with YouTube channel owners; (3) provide notice of its practices with respect to the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information from children, in compliance with the COPPA Rule; and (4) obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children. Google also is prohibited from benefitting from personal information previously collected from visitors to YouTube channels that are identified as having child-directed content. The settlement imposes additional reporting and recordkeeping obligations, and permits both the FTC and New York Attorney General to monitor the company’s compliance with the terms of the settlement.
Google has announced that starting around January 1, 2020, the company will end behavioral advertising on content identified as child-directed, and will disable certain features, such as comments and notifications, on such channels. The company also voluntarily has committed to applying machine learning to detect content that is directed to children but that may not have been so identified by content creators. Finally, Google announced that it will expand the YouTube Kids platform, which previously was available only as a mobile app, to desktop.