Short-form video app TikTok has been slapped with a $5.7m (£4.28m) fine, the largest of its kind, in the US for its relaxed approach to hoovering up childrens data.
TikTok has been downloaded some 200m times worldwide, with 65m downloads in the US alone, and it’s in the US where the app is getting a slapped wrist. It’s always been popular with a younger audience, and it is now paying for previous mistakes when it comes to obtaining user consent, specifically part of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which says companies looking to collect personal information need parental consent before they get the data of those under 13.
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According to the Federal Trade Commission, TikTok’s parent company Musical.ly Inc knew that it had a chunk of users under the age of 13 and had “received thousands of complaints from parents.”
TikTok rebranded from Music.ly last August, and the FTC allegedly claimed that a perfect storm of open messaging structure, profile pages that are automatically started as public and a large amount of users under the age of 13 created “public reports of adults trying to contact children via the Musical.ly app.” which led to the FTC taking action.
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This has resulted in the fine, in addition to TikTok making changes to comply with COPPA restrictions moving forwards. Users in the US will be prompted to re-verify their age, and anyone below the age of 13 is going to be punted from the service, with their videos being deleted.
It’s a landmark fine, especially considering tech companies routinely get criticised for overstepping when it comes to privacy. In a blog post, TikTok claims that it’ll be making changes to accomodate younger US users in a limited separate app experience that cranks up the safety and privacy.
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