Google is in the news again. And it’s not for good reasons. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Alphabet-owned Google will need to pay $170 million (approximately ₹1,200 crores) to settle allegations that it broke federal law by obtaining personal information about children.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joe Simons noted, “Google and YouTube knowingly and illegally monitored, tracked, and served targeted ads to young children just to keep advertising dollars rolling in. No other company in America is subject to these types of requirements and they will impose significant costs on YouTube.” He added that whatever he said were important changes to YouTube business practices.
The law, which came into effect in 1998, bans collecting information about children under age 13. This law was revised in 2013, adding “cookies,” which is used to track a person’s Internet viewing habits. The said settlement with the FTC and the New York attorney general’s office, which will get $34 million, is the largest fine since the law.
But, it is nothing compared to the Alphabet’s revenue. It makes approximately 85% of its revenue from sales and in July, it earned a total revenue of $38.9 billion (around Rs. 2,80,000 crores).
YouTube in its blog said, “This means that we will limit data collection and use on videos made for kids only to what is needed to support the operation of the service.” It also added that in four months it would begin treating all data collected from people watching children’s content as if it came from a child.
Simons wrote: “YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients. Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids. There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law”.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, who is an active Democrat in online privacy matters, criticized the settlement. “A financial settlement is no substitute for strict reforms that will stop Google and other tech companies from invading our privacy,” Blumenthal said. “I continue to be alarmed by Big Tech’s policies and practices that invade children’s lives.”