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YouTube settlement could put video creators on the hook for violating kids’ privacy

YouTube settlement could put video creators on the hook for violating kids’ privacy
[Photos: Pixabay/Pexels; Terje Sollie/Pexels]

Bundled with YouTube’s record fine for violating kids’ privacy is a new message from the FTC to video creators: Screw up and we might come for you next.

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The FTC handed YouTube’s owner, Google, a $170 million bill today after it was accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. That fine is mere pennies for Google (like a nesting doll, Google’s owner Alphabet is worth more than $800 billion), but the FTC settlement announced today also brings some concrete changes to the service.

Google says it will soon “limit data collection and use on videos made for kids only to what is needed to support the operation of the service.” That means YouTube will stop showing targeted ads alongside children’s content, and video creators will have to identify if their videos are made for kids. Content creators who don’t do this should be on the lookout for “strong penalties,” according to an FTC statement published by TechCrunch.

“We would have strong penalties in future cases against content creators and channel owners, as well—particularly when we would have a situation where the channel owner was specifically asked, ‘Are you child-directed?’ and the channel owner said ‘no,'” said the director of the FTC’s consumer protection office, Andrew Smith.

Of course, it would be handy if we knew what “strong penalties” actually meant. Fast Company asked the FTC’s office of public affairs for more information, but it declined to comment further.

While the FTC says it plans to continue monitoring YouTube for rule-breaking videos and channels, Smith seems to be asking YouTube to do the work so the FTC doesn’t have to.

Google said on its blog that it will “also use machine learning to find videos that clearly target young audiences, for example those that have an emphasis on kids’ characters, themes, toys, or games.” So at least there’s something in the works for when creators of children’s videos inevitably break the rules to keep that targeted-ad money flowing.

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