Continuing its renewed enforcement of the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has reached a $170 million settlement with Google and YouTube for COPPA violations, surpassing the then-record $5.5 million settlement the FTC reached with Tik Tok less than 6 months ago.
The FTC and New York Attorney General had alleged in their joint complaint that YouTube collected personal information from viewers of child-directed channels without first notifying parents and receiving parents’ consent. Using the persistent cookies placed on the viewer’s system, YouTube then delivered targeted ads to viewers of these channels. Although YouTube is a general audience website, certain channels are child-directed and therefore subject to COPPA.
According to the complaint, YouTube specifically marketed itself as a top destination for kids, encouraging corporate partners such as Mattel to place ads on certain child-directed channels operated through YouTube.
In addition to the record $170 million penalty, YouTube must develop a system that permits channel owners to identify that they are a child-directed platform so that YouTube can ensure it is complying with COPPA, and they must inform channel owners of their obligations to comply with COPPA. Furthermore, Google and YouTube will be required to provide notice about their data collection practices and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children.
This settlement further highlights the importance of fully understanding your privacy obligations, especially when certain segments of your website may be subject to different privacy obligations. The FTC takes violations of this sort very seriously and will pursue operators who fail to comply with their obligations under COPPA.