What FTC needs to do to address Google/YouTube violations of kids privacy law

By: Jeff Chester | Jul 22 2019
If FTC 3-2 decision does not include the following serious remedies, as listed below, it has failed to be effective protecting children & enforcing the law

Proposed Consent Order Penalties and Conditions

The FTC should seek a 20-year consent decree which includes the following forms of relief:

Injunctive relief

  • Destroy all data collected from children under 13, in all forms in Google’s possession, including inferences drawn from this data, custody, or control of YouTube and all of Alphabet’s subsidiaries engaged in online data collection or commercial uses (e.g. advertising), including, but not limited to, Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform and their predecessors.
  • Immediately stop collecting data from any user known to be under age 13, and any user that a reasonable person would likely believe to be under age 13, including, but not limited to, persons that are viewing any channel or video primarily directed to children, persons who have been identified for targeted ads based on being under 13 or any proxy for under 13 (e.g., grade in school, interest in toys, etc.), or any other factors.
  • Identify, as of the date of this consent order, as well as on an ongoing basis, any users under age 13, and prohibit them from accessing content on YouTube. Prohibit users under age 13 from accessing content on YouTube Kids unless and until YouTube has provided detailed notice to parents, obtained parental consent, and complied with all of the other requirements of COPPA and this consent order.
  • Remove all channels in the Parenting and Family lineup, as well as any other YouTube channels and videos directed at children, from YouTube. YouTube may make such channels and videos available on a platform specifically intended for children (e.g. YouTube Kids) only after qualified human reviewers have reviewed the content and determined that the programming comply with all of the policies for YouTube’s child-directed platform, which must include, but are not limited to:
    • No data collection for commercial purposes. Any data collected for “internal purposes” must be clearly identified as to what is being collected, for what purpose, and who has access to the data. It may not be sold to any third parties.
    • No links out to other sites or online services.
    • No recommendations or autoplay.
    • No targeted marketing.
    • No product or brand integration, including influencer marketing.

Consumer education

  • Require Google to fund independent organizations to undertake educational campaigns to help children and parents understand the true nature of Google’s data-driven digital marketing systems and its potential impacts on children’s wellbeing and privacy.
  • Require Google to publicly admit (in advertising and in other ways) that it has violated the law and warn parents that no one under 13 should use YouTube.

Record keeping and monitoring provisions

  • Google must submit to an annual audit by a qualified, independent auditor to ensure that Google is complying with all aspects of the consent decree.
  • The auditor must submit their report to the FTC. The FTC shall provide reports to Congress about the findings. All of the annual audits must be publicly available without redaction on the Commission’s website within 30 days of receipt.
  • Google may not launch any new child-directed service until the new service has been reviewed and approved by an independent panel of experts – including child development and privacy experts – to be appointed by the FTC.
  • Google must retain, and make available to the FTC on request, documentation of its compliance with the consent decree.

Civil penalties and other monetary relief

  • Google will pay the maximum possible civil penalties – $42,530 per violation. Whether violations are counted per child or per day, the total amount of the penalty must be sufficiently high to deter Google and YouTube from any further violations of COPPA.
  • Google to establish a $100 million fund to be used to support the production of noncommercial, high-quality, and diverse content for children. Decisions about who receives this money must be insulated from influence by Google.

In addition, we ask the FTC to consider using its authority under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act to require Google and YouTube to disgorge ill-gotten gains, and to impose separate civil penalties on the management personnel at Google and YouTube who knowingly allowed these COPPA violations to occur.

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