Ahead of its second-quarter earnings announcement Thursday, Google (GOOGL) has been moving to settle several outstanding suits and legal claims. It’s agreed to pay $11 million to settle age-discrimination claims brought by 227 people who say they were denied jobs. And it will pay $13 million to end a privacy lawsuit over its Street View program.
But Google could be facing a larger reckoning over its handling of children’s private data. The search giant is also reportedly close to being hit with a multimillion-dollar fine over its handling of children’s privacy violations on YouTube.
“We think investors should be wary,” says Josh Golin, executive director at the advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “If the FTC doesn’t take action here, I think we’ll probably see some class-action lawsuits in the near future.”
Golin is among those pushing for tighter regulation of how children’s data is used online, and he doesn’t mince words when talking about Google’s privacy practices.
Google is “incredibly dangerous,” he told Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi and Alexis Christoforous on The First Trade. “They have vast amounts of data on all of us, including on our children. That gives them the ability to do micro-target advertising and know so much about us.”
Google, for its part, insists it only collects limited information on children under the age of 13, and “will not serve personalized ads to your child.” Its full privacy rules, for children over age 13 and adults, has a long list of information that Google says it will use, including browsing history, location data and voice data.
The FTC has just launched a review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, amid pressure from the tech sector for updated rules. The law was originally passed in 1998, long before the era of YouTube, smart TVs and smartphone apps, and that’s created a lot of confusion over what’s covered when content is not explicitly targeted toward children.
FTC chairman Joe Simons, in a statement, said “rapid technological changes” mean they must “ensure COPPA remains effective.”
For Golin, though, the review raises worries that it could end with weaker rules for everyone.
“The FTC already has the authority and the rules that it needs to go after companies like Amazon and Facebook and Google that are illegally collecting children’s data and they’re not using that,” he said. “We’re concerned that this is an effort to de-regulate the online protections that we already have for children.”