Published: Sat, March 02, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

TikTok fined $5.7m for violating children's privacy

TikTok fined $5.7m for violating children's privacy

Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app Musical.ly, also with headquarters in China.

The short-form video app TikTok, which was previously known as Musical.ly, agreed to a $5.7 million settlement Wednesday, over allegations of illegally gathering personal data of children under 13 years old, according to The Washington Post.

The settlement represents a record penalty under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law created to put parents in charge of what information is collected about their children on the internet.

TikTok said in a blog post Wednesday that in conjunction with the FTC agreement, it's starting a separate app for younger USA users with stronger safety and privacy protections. TikTok knows its audience may not know how to deal with harassment and other inappropriate behavior, and this might help kids (and their parents) address it directly.

Profile information often included email addresses as well as a child's name, age, school and picture.

"Beginning today, this additional app experience now allows us to split users into age-appropriate TikTok environments, in line with FTC guidance for mixed audience apps", reads a company press release. As part of the settlement, the video-sharing app must also take down all videos made by users under the age of 13, and begin complying with COPPA.

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The penalty by the social network, which had been formerly known as Musical.ly, was the largest ever in a children's privacy investigation, said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The regulator said it received thousands of complaints from parents. "This is an ongoing commitment, and we are continuing to expand and evolve our protective measures in support of this". Both current and new TikTok users will be directed to the age-appropriate app experience, according to TikTok.

"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", he added. Social media experts say it's so popular especially for young people because it gives the user a lot of creative freedom.

Obligations include being upfront in how children's data is collected and used, as well as a mechanism by which to inform parents their child is using the service, and obtain their consent.

In the FTC's complaint, officials claimed that TikTok operators violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

It comes after TikTok announced it would be launching a series of safety videos in its app focused around user privacy, safety and well-being settings.

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