An important FTC ruling issued today will see the TikTok video application fined $ 5.7 million for violating US child privacy laws, and will have an impact on the operation of the application for children under 13 years. Today, all users will need to check their age, and under 13s will then be directed to a separate, smaller, in-app experience that protects their personal information and prevents them from posting videos to TikTok. .
The decision comes the same day that TikTok began promoting its new security series designed to help its community stay informed about its privacy and security tools.
The Federal Trade Commission had begun to take an interest in TikTok when it was known as Musical.ly. and the decision itself is a regulation with Musical.ly.
Last spring, the self-regulatory group's Advertising Group for Children's Advertising (CARU) seized the FTC's Musical.ly for violating the US Children's Privacy Act by collecting personal information for users under 13 without parental consent. (The complaint, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the Commission, is here.)
Musically, technically, does not exist anymore. It was acquired by the Chinese company ByteDance in 2017. The application was then closed in mid-2018, while its user base was merged into TikTok.
But his regulatory problems followed him into his new home.
Under the US COPPA Children's Privacy Act, website and app operators for younger users under the age of 13 can not collect personal data such as email addresses, IP addresses, geolocation information or other identifiers without parental permission.
But the Musical.ly application required users to provide an email address, a phone number, a username, a first name and a name, a short biography and a profile photo, the FTC. claims. The application also allowed users to interact with others by commenting on their videos and sending direct messages. In addition, user accounts were public by default, which meant that a child's bio, username, photo, and videos could be seen by other users, the FTC explained. his press release.
He also noted that adults reportedly attempted to contact children in Musical.ly. Until October 2016, a feature allowed other people to see nearby users within a 50 mile radius.
"The Musical.ly operators, now known as TikTok, knew that many children were using the app, but they still did not ask for their parents' consent before collecting names, e-mail addresses and other personal information of users under the age of 13, said the FTC. President Joe Simons, in a statement. "This record penalty should remind all online services and websites that target children: we take the application of COPPA very seriously and we will not tolerate companies that blatantly ignore the law."
The COPPA Act, of course, becomes a little complex to implement for applications like TikTok that are in a gray area between adult and child orientation. Specifically, pre-teens and teens' favorite apps – such as Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok – are often requested by the youngest, children under 13, and parents often bend to them.
But some parents are caught off guard by these applications. The FTC said Musical.ly had sent "thousands of complaints" from parents because their children under 13 had created Musical.ly accounts.
In addition to the $ 5.7 million fine, the settlement between the FTC and Musical.ly includes an agreement that will affect the operation of the TikTok application.
It is said that TikTok is now considered as an application for "a mixed audience", which means that it is necessary to set up an age barrier for the application. Instead of locking users under 13 years of TikTok service, younger users will be directed to a different in-app experience that prevents TikTok from collecting personal information banned by COPPA.
TikTok also complies with the decision by making significant changes to its application. It will now prevent children under the age of 13 from filming and publishing their videos on the TikTok app. All videos of children under 13 will also be deleted.
Instead, the under-13 crowd will only be able to enjoy the content and follow the users. They will be able to create and save videos on their device, but not on the TikTok public network. They also can not share videos on the app with their friends if they use TikTok via a private account.
Since TikTok already has a large number of young children in its application, an application update will be posted today, allowing new and old users to benefit from the new door. The children will then have to check their birthday in order to be directed to the appropriate experience.
This should not, however, affect the number of children using TikTok. Today's children already know how to lie in order to consider pop-ups in order to access a restricted application. That's how they created their accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and elsewhere.
However, this decision places TikTok at least on a par with other "mixed audience" applications instead of allowing it to claim that US privacy laws do not exist.
TikTok has been installed a billion times in the world, according to recent data from Sensor Tower. The company does not publicly disclose its numbers, but the FTC says that since 2014, more than 200 million users have downloaded the Musical.ly app worldwide, with 65 million accounts registered in the US. United.
The Commission's vote to allow staff to refer the complaint to the Department of Justice and approve the proposed consent decree was raised to 5-0. Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued a separate statement, presented below:
The Federal Trade Commission's crackdown on Musical.ly's privacy practices, now known as TikTok, is a milestone for our protection enforcement program Privacy Online (COPPA) for Children. Agency staff uncovered disruptive practices, including the collection and display of the site and other sensitive data about young children. In our opinion, these practices reflected the company's desire to continue growing, even at the expense of endangering children. The agency has obtained a record civil penalty and the removal of ill-gotten data, as well as other remedies to put an end to this blatant behavior. This is a great victory in the fight for the protection of children's privacy.
This investigation began before the establishment of the current Commission. FTC investigations typically focus on individual liability only in certain circumstances, which has meant that employees of large firms have often avoided audits. We should move away from this approach. Leaders of big corporations who condemn companies that break the law should be held accountable.
When a company seems to have made the business decision to violate or disregard the law, the Commission should identify and investigate the people who have taken or ratified this decision and determine if there is has to be blamed. As we continue to pursue violations of the law, we should give priority to discovering the role of leaders and administrators and hold all those who break the law to account.