TikTok Fined for Illegally Collecting Children’s User Data

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For illegally collecting personal information from children without parental consent, Chinese-owned mobile application TikTok has been fined $5.7 million (around Rs 40.42 crore) in the United States. Although, TikTok celebrated the one billion downloads on iOS and Android milestone, but the popular video sharing app is now facing severe criticism for violating children’s privacy law in the US. It illegally collected personal information from children under the age of 13, such as names, email addresses and their location.


The US fine relates to Musical.ly, a video-sharing app Bytedance bought in 2017 and merged with TikTok last August. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that the social network, which had been known as Musical.ly and later was acquired and ‘incorporated’ into TikTok, knowingly posted content published by users who were underage. The collection of that personal information provided more than enough evidence for Musical.ly to see it was violating the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, the FTC said.

“While we’ve always seen TikTok as a place for everyone, we understand the concerns that arise around younger users,” the company said in a statement. “In working with the FTC [the commission] and in conjunction with today’s agreement, we’ve now implemented changes to accommodate younger US users in a limited, separate app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for this audience.”

In the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, received thousands of complaints from parents saying their underage children had created an account without their knowledge. When parents asked, Musical.ly would shut down the accounts of preteens. But it didn’t delete the users’ videos or profile information from its servers, according to the FTC complaint.

Joe Simons, the FTC’s chairman, said: “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 that we take enforcement of Coppa [the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act] very seriously, and we will not tolerate companies that flagrantly ignore the law.”

“We’ve been committed to creating measures to further protect our user community – including tools for parents to protect their teens and for users to enable additional privacy settings,” the company said. So as a part of the settlement with the FTC, TikTok must take down all videos made by children under age 13. TikTok also agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle allegations that it illegally collected personal information from underage children.

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