The US government is in the late stages of an investigation into YouTube for allegedly violating children’s privacy, according to four people familiar with the matter, a probe that threatens the company with a potential fine and already has prompted the tech giant to reevaluate some of its business practices.
The Federal Trade Commission launched its investigation after numerous complaints from consumer groups and privacy advocates, according to the four people, who requested anonymity because such probes are supposed to be confidential. The complaints contended that YouTube, which is owned by Google, failed to protect kids who used the streaming-video service and improperly collected their data in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law known as COPPA that forbids the tracking and targeting of users younger than age 13.
The possibility of a hefty penalty against the company – including a settlement forcing it to change its practices to better protect children – could signal a new phase in the FTC’s enforcement of the child-privacy law, which many critics say has grown weak amid technology’s rapid changes over the past two decades.
The FTC declined…