In a historic move, the FTC has fined YouTube and it’s parent company Google 170 Million for violations of the Children’s Privacy Law. Let’s break it down, who is the FTC, what is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), WTF did YouTube do to get this much hate and what comes next.
Now it’s time for a Break Down
1. The FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal government agency in the United States who is tasked primarily with consumer protection through stopping ‘unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace’ -FTC.gov. In the last 10 or more years, the FTC has been really busy regulating online practices, this includes protecting consumer and children’s privacy, regulating advertising practices and regulating how private information may be tracked online. The FTC does this by passing regulations and acts like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
2. COPPA (not the Cabana)
Which brings us too …what the hell is COPPA. COPPA was enacted in 1998 and is one of the many laws governing how we interact online and it states in part that websites “cannot collect information online regarding children (any under 13) through means like passive tracking, requesting, prompting, or encouraging them to submit personal information or enabling a child to make personal information available in an identifiable form”. www.ftc.gov . There are a substantial number of guidelines in the law which I cover in detail on the Get Legit Law & Sh!t podcast. But know, that the FTC breaks that shit down …all the way.
3. How Did We Get Here?
So why is the FTC salty with Google and YouTube? First, it’s not just the FTC, the state of New York also sued Google & YouTube in this case …but for the sake of being brief, I will continue to just refer to the FTC. The FTC states in their complaint that YouTube violated COPPA by using cookies to track viewers of YouTube channels with child-directed consent. The FTC states that YouTube earned millions of dollars by using these cookies to deliver targeted advertisements to viewers of these channels.
The thing that really pissed off the FTC is the fact that YouTube touted itself as “#1 website regularly visited by kids” and as being “today’s leader in reaching children age 6-11” and by stating to advertisers Mattel and Hasbro essentially that YouTube was the best place to reach kids and was competitive with any TV channel out there. Look, just from my kids’ behavior, I believe all of it. My kids love YouTube, their friends love YouTube and if I don’t buy some merch from Ryan of Ryan’s Toy Review this Christmas my 7-year-old may try to find a new family.
FTC Chairman Joe Simons stated in the agencies press release that “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”.
The FTC even included the following images in its press release just to drive home the point that YouTube held itself out as an attractive offering for advertisers based on their access to children. But this isn’t a first for Google. As the image from the FTC shows Google has been fined 258.2 million in fines since 2012 for privacy violations.
But Wait…There’s More.
In addition to the fines, the fine requires Google and YouTube to develop, implement and maintain a system that permits channel owners to identify their child-directed content on YouTube so that YouTube can ensure that it’s complying with COPPA= and companies must notify channel owners that their child-directed content may be subject to COPPA and provide annual training about complying with COPPA for employees who deal with YouTube channel owers. YouTube also must show that they are obtaining verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children.
As of December 12, 2019, YouTube has reached out to the FTC for further guidance to help creators comply with COPPA. Notice how YouTube is shifting the burden of compliance away from the platform and onto creators?? Last time I checked it was YouTube and Google who are in charge of serving ads on creator channels. YouTube is in sole control of what ads are shown and even if ads are shown on a particular channel. Yes, YouTube has made it possible for content creators to state if their content is directed at children, but YouTube has provided little other guidance, so this is an evolving issue and there will be more on this to come!
Tune in for Get Legit Law & Sh!t next week for my suggestions to creators and all website owners on COPPA compliance and a few other interesting ways the FTC has been cracking down.
If you have a community that needs this information I am here to help. Shoot me an email to email@example.com. I am happy to talk to your community, podcast, or channel about how to Get Legit™.
Emily D. Baker, Esq.
Badass Lawyer for Online Business
Emily has been running business for 15 years and has ove 13 years of legal experience. She spent 10 years at the Los Angeles County District attorney's office where she truly learned to be a solopreneur. Emily has built her consulting and speaking business from the ground up, in her garage jamming out to 90's music. She specializes in no BS practical advice for the starting and scaling online entreprenur. Emily will tell you what the business gurus can't in a way that is both hillarious and empowering.