YouTube recently faced some controversy over its autoplay function that ultimately ended up in an FTC investigation. Google's algorithmic selection had a bad habit of leading children away from safe, joyful videos and instead would occasionally point them to violent and inappropriate content. And if that wasn't attracting enough negative attention, it turns out Google also collected personal information on minors and used it for targeted advertising without parental consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Now the FTC and Google are coming to a settlement over these acts, with the company paying between $150 and $200 million as a fine.
The agreement is said to include changes to YouTube, but the FTC will only announce full details of the settlement later this week. Google is looking for ways to end targeted ads towards kids, though it's not clear precisely how this may be achieved. Previously, the company considered moving all children's content off of its main platform and making it exclusively available on YouTube Kids, which might be the only reasonable solution to both problems.
Privacy groups behind the original complaint remain skeptical. They consider the fine far too small to push Google to action, as it might only be "the equivalent of two to three months of YouTube ad revenue," as Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood puts it. The groups question if the FTC's fines are able to "restrain business practices that violate privacy," according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Marc Rotenberg.
Last week, an update to the YouTube Kids app added filters that divide the content available into three different categories aimed at preschoolers, 5-to-7-year-olds, and 8-to-12-year-olds, which could be the first step towards appeasing the FTC. A web launch is planned for this week, which would allow children to access the service on almost any device going forward, and help them stay away from content restricted to full-blown YouTube.
A settlement has been reached, according to which Google and YouTube will pay $170 million to make these allegations go away. $136 million will go to the FTC and $34 million to New York. You can read more about it here.