Tik Tok, the short-video sharing app from ByteDance, will pay a USD 5.7 million fine to settle allegations of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it illegally collected personal information from children. FTC is an independent agency of the United States government that deals with consumer protection and prevention of anticompetitive business practices.
In what is being called as “the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the commission in a children’s privacy case”, Tik Tok, formerly known as Musical.iy, has been charged with violating Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, by failing to require parental consent for users under 13, neglecting to notify parents about how the app collected personal information of underage users and not permitting parents to request for deletion of their children’s data, said Wired in a recent report.
Started in 2014, Musical.ly became a global sensation, by captured the attention of around 100 million Generation Z consumers — people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. It was acquired by Chinese internet giant ByteDance in November 2017 and was renamed Tik Tok. The app, which lets users share 15-second video clips, has now been downloaded more than a billion times globally.
Until late 2017, the app didn’t require users to provide their age. The FTC alleges that TikTok was aware that a “significant percentage” of its users were younger than 13 and that it received thousands of complaints from parents whose underage children had created accounts, the Wired report said.
Following the settlement with FTC, Tik Tok introduced a separate portion of its app for children under 13 on Wednesday, with additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for kids.
With this new arrangement, anyone under the age of 13 will not be permitted to share personal information. The kids’ section does not allow uploading of videos, commenting, messaging with users, maintaining a profile or having followers. Meaning, it will only allow young kids to consume content, and not share it.