News roundup: Google cops $170 million fine for violating child privacy

News roundup: Google cops $170 million fine for violating child privacy

Not a great week for Google

Google and it's video platform YouTube has been hit with a record-breaking (USD) $170 million fine, after regulators said the tech-giant knowingly and illegally harvested personal information about children to target them with advertising. Google agreed to pay the fine, which was issued by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the State of New York. As part of the settlement, the FTC and the New York attorney general alleged that Google marketed YouTube to advertisers knowing that many of its channels were popular with younger audiences. It also alleged that Google tracked the viewing histories of children so that it could serve them advertising, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The fine is the largest ever levied for a COPPA offense, but some analysts and commentators have described it as ‘paltry; saying it simply serves as a slap on the wrist. Investigative data journalist Jon Keegan was quick to point out that $170 million only makes up roughly 37 hours of the company's profits. Beyond the fine though, Google is also tasked with changing its business practices, with creators being required for adding labels to content intended for young audiences,  and mandating that data collection on videos targeting minors is ceased. YouTube has complied with these requirements, announcing sweeping changes to such content after the fine was revealed.

Interestingly, that wasn't the only reason Google was in the news for this week, as the company was also accused of leaking data to advertisers. The accusations came from Brave - who provide a Chromium-based browser rival to Google Chrome - who said it had proof that Google was violating Europe's privacy laws around data control and transparency. Brave chief policy and industry relations officer, Johnny Ryan, filed a GDPR compliant alleging that Google's Authorized Buyers real-time bidding (RTB) ad exchange platform was being used to ‘broadcast' personal data of users to hundreds of Google's ad tech partners that bid for users in the RTB system.

Effectively, Ryan says Google was using hidden web pages to feed personal data of its users to advertisers, using profiling and tracking capabilities. Google is currently co-operating with the Irish data regulator as they investigate the claims.

Facebook expose millions of phone numbers

Facebook's notably sketchy privacy track record has continued this week, as a security researcher discovered an unsecured database pulled from Facebook that exposed 419 million phone numbers. The server hosting the database wasn't password protected, meaning anyone could find and access it, according to the researcher who passed the findings on to TechCrunch.

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Pat Martlew

Patrick Martlew is a technology enthusiast and editorial guru that works the digital enterprise beat in London. After making his tech writing debut in Sydney, he has now made his way to the UK where he works to cover the very latest trends and provide top-grade expert analysis.

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