Groups React to Reported YouTube Settlement

Google will pay up to $200 million to the U.S. government to settle allegations that its YouTube subsidiary violated children's privacy, according to reports.

That was not good news for the various groups who complained to the Federal Trade Commission, which were looking for something tougher. The FTC had been widely reported to be planning to take action against the company, but the size of the settlement was news.

“A settlement amount of $150 million to $200 million would be woefully low, considering the egregious nature of the violation, how much Google profited from violating the law, and given Google’s size and revenue," said Katharina Kopp, deputy director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Google’s unprecedented violation requires an unprecedented FTC response. A small amount like this would effectively reward Google for engaging in massive and illegal data collection without any regard to children’s safety. "

Ditto for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

RELATED: Privacy Groups: Kids Programming Should be Off YouTube

"We are glad that our advocacy has compelled the FTC to act and finally hold Google accountable for years of COPPA violations," CCFC executive director Josh Golin said. "However, if the FTC fines Google only $200 million, that’s terribly inadequate. They have allowed YouTube to build a children’s media empire through illegal means that now no one can compete with, all for the cost of a fine which is the equivalent of two to three months of YouTube ad revenue. They should levy a fine which both levels the playing field, and serves as a deterrent to future COPPA violations. This fine would do neither."

“Once again, this FTC appears to have let a powerful company off the hook with a nominal fine for violating users’ privacy online,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who authored the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) while serving in the House. “And in this case, intrusions on children’s personal information are at issue.

“I look forward to reviewing the requirements placed upon Google in this settlement, but I am disappointed that the Commission appears poised to once again come out with a partisan settlement that falls short of the Commission’s responsibility to consumers and risks normalizing corporate bad behavior,” Markey continued. “We owe it to kids to come down hard on companies that infringe on children’s’ privacy and violate federal law.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.