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Google Hit With a Record $170 Million Fine by FTC for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube

Google will pay a $170 fine as part of a settlement announced Wednesday with the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General.

The settlement found that Google-owned YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by illegally collecting personal information from children without parents' consent.

The information included identifiers used to track viewers of child-directed channels across the Internet. Google then profited from the information in the form of targeted ads.

The settlement is part of a larger current of backlash against tech companies—like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and others—for profiting off users' data, especially when some of those users are children.

While Google claims YouTube is a general audience website, the site has a number of children-focused channels, most notably those relating to toys.

"YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients," FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. "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."

The FTC reported that this is the largest settlement ever seen for a COPPA case. Of the $170 million, $136 million will go to the FTC and $34 million to New York.

In response to the settlement and COPPA complaint, YouTube will now consider anyone watching creator-identified children's content as a child and will limit data collection from those users. Other features like commenting and notifications will also be removed from children's content and personalized ads will not be served on those videos.

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