The Brief: The creators of the app TikTok will pay a $5.7 million fine for allegedly violating children's' privacy. This is the largest single penalty the FTC has ever obtained in a children's privacy case.
On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that the operators of TikTok: Musical.ly Inc. agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle allegations that the company illegally collected personal information from children. Specifically, the FTC alleges that TikTok/Musical.ly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPA) by failing to require children under the age of 13 to obtain parental consent before the app collected their personal information.
According to the FTC, this is the largest single penalty they’ve ever obtained in a children’s privacy case. The settlement also requires TikTok to remove all videos from the app posted by children under the age of 13 and comply with COPPA going forward.
FTC Chairman Joe Simmons stated that “The operators of Musical.ly—now known as TikTok—knew many children were using the app but they still failed to seek parental consent before collecting names, email addresses, and other personal information from users under the age of 13…This record penalty should be a reminder to all online services and websites that target children: We take enforcement of COPPA very seriously, and we will not tolerate companies that flagrantly ignore the law.”
Issues With TikTok
This settlement comes after there have been a variety of reported issues for children using the app. The FTC’s complaint addressed TikTok’s failure to obtain parental consent before collecting data and personal information of children under the age of 13, but there have also been reports of harassment directed towards children on TikTok. These reports include issues with adults making lewd comments on kids videos and soliciting them for nudes. Until 2016, the app had a function that allowed users to see and contact users who were in a 50 mile radius of them.
Changes To TikTok
In the wake of this settlement, TikTok announced that they will be making some changes to their app in order to make it safer for young users. TikTok is releasing a “new environment for younger users” that will allow them to view videos but not to post them or to interact with others on the app. TikTok also introduced a video series available for viewing on the app called “You’re In Control” which is designed to teach users about the apps community guidelines, safety tips, privacy settings, etc.
Internet Safety And Privacy For Children
The issues with TikTok are yet another example of dangers of internet use for children. This week, there have been reports of disturbing content embedded into videos on the YouTube Kids App as well as issues with groups of pedophiles making inappropriate comments on videos featuring children.
When kids go online, there are significant risks to having their own public presence and in the media they may be subject to. It is important to talk to kids about the dangers of internet and social media use. Internet safety and privacy guidelines can help mitigate risks. Check out StayHipp’s app guide to learn more about apps popular among young people and how they can be used safely.