Popular entertainment app TikTok will pay $5.7 million to the FTC over a children’s privacy complaint, which alleged that the company’s Musical.ly app was collecting data from children under 13 without parental consent.
According to Variety, the complaint alleged “that Musical.ly,” which was merged with TikTok last year, “violated the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires websites and online services aimed at kids to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under 13.”
“Under the terms of the settlement, TikTok is also required to remove all videos from the app posted by children under the age of 13 and also must comply with COPPA going forward,” Variety reported, adding that “it’s the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the agency in a children’s privacy case.”
FTC Chairman Joe Simons reportedly “alleged that the operators of TikTok/Musical.ly knew that many children under 13 were using the app but still failed to seek parental consent before illegally collecting info from the kids.”
In a statement, Simons proclaimed, “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.”
TikTok responded to the settlement in a blog post, Wednesday.
“While we’ve always seen TikTok as a place for everyone, we understand the concerns that arise around younger users. In working with the FTC 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,” TikTok announced. “We have always worked to provide our users with the best possible platform to foster their creativity. 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. The new environment for younger users does not permit the sharing of personal information, and it puts extensive limitations on content and user interaction.”
“In the younger ecosystem, users cannot do things like share their videos on TikTok, comment on others’ videos, message with users, or maintain a profile or followers,” the company continued. “We care deeply about the safety and privacy of our users. This is an ongoing commitment, and we are continuing to expand and evolve our protective measures in support of this. We’re also working to bring our privacy and safety settings front and center for our users, such as in our Safety Center and in the video tutorial series we launched today in the TikTok app.”
This month, the Telegraph warned that TikTok’s mostly young userbase were “being targeted by predators in the comments function of live videos and are being encouraged to engage in sexual activity online.”