TikTok company fined millions for illegally collecting kids' personal data

28 February 2019, 13:25 | Updated: 28 February 2019, 13:30

tiktok fined personal data
Picture: TikTok
Benedict Townsend

By Benedict Townsend

This was the biggest fine ever of its kind

Bytedance, the parent company of the uber-successful video app TikTok, has received a record fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after the Commission determined that the company had illegally collected personal information from kids without their parents’ consent.

The ruling was originally focused on the lip-syncing app Musical.ly, which the Chinese giant Bytedance bought in and converted into TikTok, meaning that the problems that the FTC found with Musical.ly also apply to TikTok. The $5.7 million fine is the largest civil penalty ever brought in a case of this nature.

So what did Bytedance do?

The FTC ruled that Musical.ly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This law states that websites and apps are not allowed to collect private information (things like location, email addresses) from children under 13 years old.

The FTC got involved because Musical.ly required all users, regardless of age to provide an email address, phone number, username, bio, full name and profile picture if wanted to sign up for the app. Profiles were also automatically set to 'public' after they were created.

Bytedance now says that it will massively overhaul TikTok. In a blog post, Tik Tok said:

“While we’ve always seen TikTok as a place for everyone, we understand the concerns that arise around younger users,”

The app will now ask all users to verify their ages, and anyone currently on the app who is under 13 will be sent to a “limited, separate app experience” that “does not permit the sharing of personal information, and... puts extensive limitations on content and user interaction.”

The app will also now forbid users under 13 years old from uploading any new videos to TikTok. Further, as part of their settlement with the FTC, TikTok will remove every single video that has ever been posted on the app by someone under 13 (no small task).

If you are over 13 and have TikTok, why not follow our sister site Popbuzz on there.

H/T: Tubefilter