TikTok has grown immensely in popularity, with 500 million users worldwide. It enables users to upload short videos, whether it be lip sync videos or comedy sketches, with sound effects added in. If that doesn’t ring a bell, you may remember it by its former moniker, Musical.ly.
It has received criticism, such as being a ‘hunting ground‘ for child predators that are able to watch children’s videos and communicate with them via the internal messaging system.
However, there is more to worry about regarding privacy violations. On February 27, TikTok’s parent company Byte Dance was made to pay the Federal Trade Commission a $5.7 million settlement, responding to allegations that TikTok has been illegally collecting the private information of children using the app.
According to Vox News, TikTok’s payment is the largest civil penalty the FTC has ever collected in the name of children’s privacy.
The FTC has accused TikTok of knowingly hosting children on the app. Although TikTok says it doesn’t allow children below 13 on the app, there are undeniably many who use it nonetheless.
TikTok had access to their first and last names, phone numbers, email addresses, biographies, and profile pictures, which is lot of information for users who might be too young to understand or care about online privacy and its nuances.
“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.”
FTC Chair Joe Simons’ statement regarding the fine.