TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, is a video-sharing app that allegedly collected personal data and information from children in the US illegally. On Wednesday, the officials of the Federal Trade Commission said that the Chinese-owned social network agreed to pay a USD 5.7 million fine to the authorities to settle its penalties. The company admitted that it had failed to obtain parental consent, which is a requirement for users who are underage by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
The social network is an easy app to operate just like any other social media apps. TikTok has been a popular video-sharing app to the younger generation and has been widely used around the globe especially in Asian countries.
To register to the network, users have to give out their email addresses, username, user’s first and last name, phone number, location, and a profile picture. The app allows users to upload little lips, area, and a profile picture.
The app will enable users to upload short lipsync videos of popular hits. It has become famous for its user’s creativity in doing lipsyncs. However, there are important measures that the company did not make a priority.
According to Joe Simons, chairman of FTC, the operators of TikTok already knew that most of their users were children who are below 13 but still failed to make it a priority to obtain parental consent before collecting user information such as their names, location, email addresses, and other personal data. The company claimed that they had become the world’s most popular app reaching 500 million users last year 2018.
In the US, there are around 65 million accounts that are registered with TikTok which most likely having a lot of children under 13 involved without proper consent.
It was also reported that the app had criticisms on a feature that was sexually suggestive and inappropriate for children. It also had practices that were disturbing, exposing its users’ location and other info, said the FTC. It is more than enough evidence that the network was not following the law.
The Federal Trade Commission added that TikTok’s penalty of violating children’s privacy is the world’s largest as of the moment. It is clear that the internet offers a lot of activities for children that should be supervised by adults or parents. Moreover, this should serve as a reminder and at the same time a warning to other social media networks that target children as their market and user.