Senator Markey Blasts FTC YouTube Children’s Privacy Settlement: FTC Stands for ‘Forgetting Teens and Children’
Senator Markey is House author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
Washington (September 4, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) released the following statement after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its settlement with Google over YouTube’s children’s privacy violations. The settlement requires Google to pay $170 million and implement a system for YouTube channel owners to self-identify as being directed to children and, thus, subject to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In 1998, Congress passed the bipartisan COPPA to address the inherent and unique risks that the internet poses for children.
“Today’s settlement confirms that YouTube is tracking kids in violation of federal law,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “The FTC pulled the curtain back on this practice, but it did not go far enough to put in place critical new rules for accountability. The FTC let Google off the hook with a drop-in-the-bucket fine and a set of new requirements that fall well short of what is needed to turn YouTube into a safe and healthy place for kids. Google’s violations of COPPA are brazen, widespread, and specifically designed to increase profits. YouTube knowingly broke the law by tracking kids in order to rake in advertising dollars without the requisite notice to and permission from parents. This settlement makes clear that this FTC stands for ‘Forgetting Teens and Children’.
“The FTC should have issued a colossal fine that fits Google’s crime and demanded that Google make significant structural changes to their business practices for the sake of the millions of children who use Google every day. The FTC should have required Google to delete all data it has collected from children under 13 because it never should have amassed an untold amount of this data in the first place. The FTC should have prohibited Google from launching any new kids’ offerings before review and approval by independent experts because Google has forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to putting kids’ well-being first. And the FTC should have required annual public audits into Google’s children’s privacy practices because parents deserve to know if this tech behemoth continues to track kids. Google did pledge to establish a fund dedicated to the creation of thoughtful, original children’s content on YouTube and YouTube Kids globally, an effort I called for this summer. But not a single Google executive or investor will bat an eye as a result of this toothless decision.
“We have an obligation to establish enforceable safeguards that put kids’ interests ahead of corporate interest in the Internet Age,” continued Senator Markey. “Where the FTC fails, Congress must act swiftly and strongly to pass new legislation for children online. We can start by passing my COPPA 2.0 legislation with Senator Hawley that extends privacy protections to teens, creates an eraser button so that young users can eliminate personal information they’ve posted, and bans targeted ads directed at children. But we must look beyond privacy invasions to other pressing threats to children and teens online. I soon will introduce legislation to ban damaging website design features like auto-play that harm children, limit advertising and commercial content on child-directed platforms, and stop the amplification of dangerous and inappropriate content to kids. I call on my colleagues in Congress to join me in these efforts to keep the nation’s children and teens safe in today’s online ecosystem.”
In June, Senator Markey wrote to the FTC expressing concern that YouTube has violated COPPA and urging the Commission to include a series of new privacy safeguards that YouTube should implement as part of any potential consent decree stemming from a Commission investigation into children’s privacy on YouTube.
In November 2018, Senator Markey asked FTC Chairman Joseph Simons specifically about YouTube’s potential violation of COPPA.