TikTok pays $5.7m in FTC settlement over children’s privacy

TikTok pays $5.7m in FTC settlement over children’s privacy

TikTok has agreed to pay $5.7m to settle allegations by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it illegally collected personal information from children – “the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case” according to the FTC.

The app’s operators must now remove all videos made by children under the age of 13, and comply with the COPPA rules going forward.

The verdict was hard. FTC chairman Joe Simons said:

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.

So what will TikTok do now? Besides launching a new series of videos on user-safety “we’ve now implemented changes to accommodate younger US users in a limited, separate app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for this audience,” announced the company in its own blog post. “The new environment for younger users does not permit the sharing of personal information, and it puts extensive limitations on content and user interaction”.

The new features went live yesterday, and will see children unable to share videos of their own; comment on other people’s videos; message with other users; or maintain their own profile or followers. Instead, they’ll be able to watch “curated content” and “experiment” with TikTok’s creative features.

Touching another topic about TikTok, app analytics company Sensor Tower claims that “the app has just crossed the one billion mark for worldwide installs on the App Store and Google Play, including its lite versions and regional variations” – and this doesn’t include installs from non-Google Android app stores in China.