Google will now be forced to pay a fine totaling in the millions of dollars, according to widespread reports stemming from persons said to be close to the matter, possibly avoiding heavier penalties. The exact amount and any concessions that might be made have not been revealed for the time being. Any other details about the settlement are being kept under wraps too, with spokespeople of both the FTC and Google declining to comment.
The decision here, regardless of the finer details, is by no means final and it remains to be seen whether the U.S. Justice Department will step in with its own recommendations or changes to the alleged settlement. That's something that has historically happened infrequently but is not out of the question here since the decision appears to have been divided along partisan lines.
Specifically, the agency's three Republicans and two Democrats disagreed on the outcome, which stems from a violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act — effectively prohibiting companies from tracking or targeting users who are under the age of 13.
Contention and questions
Among other things, one of the primary contentions between supports of this decision and those who are opposed to it likely follows along the same vein as earlier contentions between the groups. The more staunch advocates for privacy online have argued at various points that Google needs to be broken up from properties such as YouTube and that child-targeting videos should just be removed from the platform to its own. Those are steps that Google itself has considered as well.
Google has also considered removing any media featuring children from its monetization services and from its recommendations that surface as suggestions to combat a related problem tied in with the prominence of apparent pedophiles utilizing the video-sharing platform.
Progress on the company's part has been relatively slow and the FTC has previously looked at forcing the company to move forward demonetizing those videos in favor of both privacy and safety.
Opponents to those steps have argued that the move would be out of touch with how sites like YouTube operate and would shift the burden of consequence onto YouTubers instead of the Google-owned company itself. Without further details and until official statements have been made about the settlement, it's impossible to say how deep the split in opinion regarding the decision will run but it doesn't break with the partisan history that's been seen so far in investigations into tech companies.
Not the only investigation and this isn't just YouTube
Google is also under examination by congressional leaders in the U.S. due to practices associated with its "research applications" that were collecting user data and bypassed security in some app markets to avoid detection. But that scrutiny and the scrutiny regarding its other data collection efforts and related practices aren't limited to Google by any stretch of the imagination.
Among the most prominent companies that have been under scrutiny and continues to be is Facebook, which has faced serious challenges and calls for new leadership — or at least a shuffle to leadership — since its Cambridge Analytica scandal centered around the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The latest run of investigations has broken away from that individual incident and centers its attention on Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google. Twitter taking plenty of its own heat amid allegations from some Republican party leaders who claim that it uses biased filters to prevent a discussion on some topics or from some elected officials. The decision regarding Google and YouTube could have a ripple effect across those other investigations too, setting a precedent for how penalties might be assigned if the latest information from the sources proves accurate.