YouTube plans sweeping changes to kids video after record $170M fine

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Angela Lang/CNET

Google‘s giant video site YouTube unveiled sweeping changes to how it treats kids videos Wednesday, at the same time that US Federal Trade Commission hit the company with a record $170 million fine to settle a probe into how it treats children’s data privacy. 

In about four months, YouTube will roll out policies significantly changing how it treats kids videos on its platform. In effect, it will presume that anyone watching children’s content on YouTube could be a child, regardless of their actual age. As a result, it will limit the data it collects on those views to the bare minimum, it said. “We will only collect the data needed to support the operation of the service,” it said. 

In addition, personalized ads will stop running on content made for kids, and features like comments and notifications will no longer be available on videos made for kids. Previously, the company had pledged to deactivate comments on all videos featuring young children and some with older children. Also Wednesday, YouTube said creators will have to identify content made for kids. The company plans to also find videos in this category using machine learning.

Kids video is a giant business on YouTube, the world’s biggest online video source with 2 billion monthly users. Kids make up one of the site’s biggest audiences. That means not only YouTube itself meaningfully relies on the advertising revenue it drums up running commercials with those clips — but also creators big and small there. Changes to how much data YouTube collects on all kids-targeting videos and stripping this content of personalized ads, comments and notifications will make the business of being a homegrown YouTube kids channel more challenging for creators. 

Google will pay $170 million to settle allegations that YouTube illegally collection personal information from children without parents’ consent, the FTC said. The investigation focused on whether YouTube illegally collected personal information from children without parents’ consent.

Under the settlement, Google will pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule.  The FTC said this is “by far the largest amount” it has ever obtained in a COPPA case since Congress enacted the law in 1998.