At the end of last week, the media was full of stories that Google had been “Fined $170 Million for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube” (that’s a headline from the New York Times; see also, for example, NPR | BBC | RTÉ | Silicon Republic). In this post, I want to sketch the legal background to, and consequences of, this fine; and, at the end, I will say a few words about the equivalent position in Europe.
In the US, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (15 USC §§ 6501–6506; hereafter: COPPA), and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (16 CFR § 312; hereafter: the COPPA Rule) made under it, regulate unfair and deceptive acts and practices in connection with the collection and use of personal information from and about children on the internet. In particular, 15 USC §§ 6502(b)(A) COPPA, and 16 CFR § 312.3 COPPA Rule, require the operator of any website or online service directed to children that collects personal information from children, or the operator of a website or online service that has actual knowledge that it is collecting personal information from a child,
(i) to provide notice on the website of what information is collected from children by the operator, how the operator uses such information, and the operator’s disclosure practices for such information; and
(ii) to obtain verifiable parental consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children; …
Giving further effect to the second paragraph here, 16 CFR § 312.5(b)(1) COPPA Rule provides
An operator must make reasonable efforts to obtain verifiable parental consent, taking into consideration available technology.