After months of speculation, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday announced details of its settlement with Google and YouTube over alleged violations of child-privacy law. The big number: $170m. That’s how much Google and YouTube are paying to settle the allegations that YouTube “illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent”.

$136m of that is being paid to the FTC – its largest ever settlement in a case involving the COPPA child-privacy law by some distance – and another $34m to New York, whose attorney general has also been on the case.

“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” said FTC chairman Joe Simons. “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.”

This isn’t just about the fine though: Google and YouTube have been ordered to put in place a system that “permits channel owners to identify their child-directed content on the YouTube platform so that YouTube can ensure it is complying with COPPA”. An extra twist: individual channels aimed at children could also now be held liable for violations of the law, rather than just YouTube.

YouTube has already responded though: in four months time it will stop serving personalised ads on any videos aimed at children. “No more ads means no more income,” as one commentator put it. YouTube has also announced plans for a $100m fund to be spent over the next three years on “thoughtful, original children’s content” – in lieu of advertising income.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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