AG Balderas lets Google off easy for allegations company violated children’s safety

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has not only given Google a win despite its track record of violating children’s safety but has helped it rebuild its tarnished reputation on the issue in the process. 

Balderas previously filed a suit with his Consumer & Environmental Protection Division against Google LLC for allegations it violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and state regulations regarding children’s privacy.

This is by no means the first time Google has been taken to court over this issue. 

In 2019, Google reportedly shelled out a $170 million fine and promised to “make changes to protect children’s privacy on YouTube, as regulators said the video site had knowingly and illegally harvested personal information from children and used it to profit by targeting them with ads,” the New York Times reports. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019, “The settlement requires Google and YouTube to pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule. The $136 million penalty is by far the largest amount the FTC has ever obtained in a COPPA case since Congress enacted the law in 1998.”

But Balderas announced his lawsuit had been settled with Google for a meager $3.8 million going to a new initiative “to promote education, privacy, and safety for New Mexico children across the state. Google and Attorney General Balderas will work together in the coming weeks to identify recipients of these funds, which will be spent within New Mexico for the benefit of New Mexico’s children.”

The news release from Balderas said the initiative will include perks to educators. “Within Google’s widely-used Workspace for Education products (formerly known as GSuite for Education), Google now provides school administrators with tools to protect minor students from improper collection of their personal data, including age-based access settings to ensure that minor children’s data is protected from unauthorized collection and disclosure. New Mexico schools will also get early access to new products and initiatives as part of the Google for Education Pilot Program,” it reads.

The tiny settlement is a victory lap for Google according to Axios, which wrote, “The settlement, which includes $3.8 million for the new initiative, is mostly a victory for Google, which wasn’t found to have broken COPPA and now gets its name on a children’s education and online safety project.”

“I’m pleased that we demanded Google put the safety of our school children first and that we’re able to partner with Google in our shared commitment to innovation and education,” claimed Attorney General Balderas in a release.

“We are pleased to support programs and initiatives in New Mexico that promote kids’ education, privacy, and safety online,” said Cynthia Pantazis, Google’s director of government affairs and public policy.

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