FTC Charges TikTok With Sharing Underage Users’ Data

The Federal Trade Commission, in its effort to crack down privacy policies of social media platforms, has charged video sharing app TikTok with a record $5.7 million fine for hosting underage content.

In a joint statement released by Commissioners Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Rohit Chopra, the FTC alleged that Musical.ly which was acquired and incorporated into TikTok deliberately published videos of underage users.

This, the FTC noted, was a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) enforcement program which required online platforms to obtain parental consent before publishing contents belonging to children under the age of 13.

TikTok allows its global users to record short clips of themselves lip-synching and share the video on their pages. With over 60 million users in the US and an estimated worldwide customer base of 1 billion, TikTok allows new users to register by providing name, email address, a short biography, and a profile picture.

Since its user accounts are set to public by default, underage children’s accounts can be seen by anyone on the platform. These accounts are subjected to interactions as other users can send a direct message or comment on their videos.

There have been public reports bordering on adult users trying to contact underage kids on the platform.

The FTC also alleged that amongst the millions of users in the United States, TikTok was aware that a significant number comprised of underage children, yet had allowed them to own accounts without requesting for a date of birth information or parental consent.

The Commission expressed gratitude to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) for bringing their attention to the issue.

In addition to the huge fine, the Commission has ordered TikTok to take down and delete every underage content on their platform.

TikTok has no intentions to contest the allegations and has agreed to pay the fine. The online platform, however, noted that there is an ongoing commitment to developing measures to support data and privacy protection.

Henceforth, users in the US will be required to verify their age immediately they open the app. Also, underage users would have a separate app experience which includes extra privacy protection.