The European Union and US regulators have declared war on technological gains for monopoly tactics and circumventing rules on users’ personal data. Under the microscope this week were the giants of Silicon Valley, Google and its subsidiary, YouTube, which were fined $ 170 million for allegations of using underage users ‘data without their parents’ consent.
According to data obtained from a multi-year investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), YouTube is accused of distributing underage personal information to advertising companies. The FTC claimed that YouTube recorded the preferences of those who visited children’s channels, and earned millions by selling these items to advertising companies. As a result, targeted screens for minors featured ads for products such as Barbie dolls.
The US video broadcaster is given four months to change its policy and force channel managers to comply with the new rules. Channels targeting minors will have a prominent indication by 2020 to require parental consent and YouTube’s personal data to be properly managed.
YouTube’s parent, Google, is expected to be on the dock for similar charges of personal data breach. This week, Brave, a rival company and of course much smaller than Google, addressed the Irish authorities, claiming that Google is channeling users’ personal data to advertising companies without their consent. Brave’s class was verified by Victory Medium’s technical consulting firm. The latter devoted a month to ascertain the patterns used to transfer personal data from the search engine to the hands of a third party and in this case an advertising company.
Brave’s presentation shows that every Google user has created a profile based on their search history. Google sells this profile to advertising companies without users’ consent to show targeted ads. At each new search of the user, a blank webpage with only the Internet address is created, which links the last action to the rest of the history. These websites are accessible by advertising companies to adjust their ads.
According to the allegations, Google is to be investigated for breach of European privacy law (GDPR). The competent Irish authority will investigate whether the allegations are true and whether the Silicon Valley colossus is leaking sensitive user data, such as race, health status and political beliefs.
In the absence of uniform laws in the US regarding privacy, US authorities approach Google’s irregularities differently. According to Bloomberg, a new investigation into the monopoly practices of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, will be launched on September 9th. However, research on internet advertising and Alphabet mobile operating systems has already begun.
Facebook has also been at the center of monopoly practices. According to a New York Times report, US prosecutors will look at how Silicon Valley key players have gained enormous market power and whether they have taken unfair tactics to weaken their competition.
The fines are “insignificant” in terms of company sizes
The $ 170 million fine on YouTube and its parent Google, Google, is the largest – nearly thirty times higher than the next one – ever imposed for violating the US Internet Minors Protection Act (COPPA). YouTube, which has neither accepted nor denied the allegations, according to the Wall Street Journal, will pay $ 136 million to the FTC and $ 34 million to New York State.
However, some members of the FTC have complained that the fine is modest compared to the size of the company. In particular, $ 170 million equals less than 2% of its parent company, Google, in the previous quarter, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It is very frustrating that the FTC does not require any more significant changes or take any further action to impose liability on Google, which has been harming children with years of illegal data collection,” Campaign Director Josh Golin told Bloomberg. for a Commercial – Free Childhood, which defends the rights of minors and helped collect incriminating material in the YouTube case.
“Google has taken billions at the expense of children, developing a series of interventionist strategies that exploit weaknesses from an early age,” Jeff Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told Bloomberg. The fine on YouTube “suggests that, if you are a politically powerful business, you do not have to worry about serious financial consequences when you break the law,” Chester added.
Google has paid two fines to European authorities. The first, in the summer of 2017, was worth € 2.4 billion and was imposed when the Commission ruled that the American colossus was favoring its own online shopping services at the expense of its competitors. The second fine amounted to € 4.3 billion for misusing the company’s dominant position in the market for Android operating system used on smartphones.
The chase of regulators with technology giants still takes a long time to bear fruit. Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple are all on the list for thorough market scrutiny by US and European competent authorities. At present, fines are imposed in an almost random and uncoordinated manner. Enforcing homogeneous legislation in countries where technology companies dominate is far from the norm today.