Just a few days ago, TikTok celebrated the one billion downloads on iOS and Android milestone, but the popular video sharing app is now facing severe criticism for violating children’s privacy law in the US.
TikTok agreed to pay a fine of $5.7 million to the US Federal Trade Commission following the accusation of illegally collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that the social network, which had been known as Musical.ly and later was acquired and ‘incorporated’ into TikTok, knowingly posted content published by users who were underage.
While FTC is concerned about the number of underage users that are there in the estimated one billion user-base, the regulators alleged that the social media network was aware that a “significant percentage” (from among the 65 million users in the US) were below the age of 13.
While the lip-syncing app is gaining popularity among millenials and threating Facebook’s hegemony, TikTokfailed to adhere to its own rules.
FTC officials said that the operators of TikTok knew that many children were using the app, but they still failed to seek parental consent before collecting names and other personal details from underage users.
FTC strongly pointed out that this record penalty should be a reminder to online services and sites who breach the law and illegally target children.
“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,” FTC’s Chairman Joe Simons stated.
As per the FTC regulators, TikTok would be fined because of what the US agency saw as Musical.ly’s failure to adhere to the basic principles of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Apparently, Musical.ly users’ accounts were public by default and adults were able to contact users irrespective of their age. FTC noted that until 2016, the app allowed users to view other users within a 50-mile radius.
But while, teenagers are claimed to be flocking to the service all because it allows users to lip-sync popular videos for 15 seconds and share the clips with friends, to comply with regulations ‘in future,’ TikTokannounced a separate app for users under 13. The app will not permit users to share personal information and put limits on the kind of content posted in the platform.
“In working with the FTC and in conjunction with today’s agreement, 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,” a BBC report citing TikTok said.
While China’s ByteDance owned app is forced to make significant changes to its platform, TikTok is not the only one facing criticism for violating laws. Recently, a dozen of children’s advocacy groups called on FTC to investigate Facebook’s violation of consumer protection and child privacy law. The consumer groups accused Facebook of knowingly deceiving children into racking up fee from online games on its social media platform.