The video app TikTok is huge with kids. Now the Federal Trade Commission has fined the owners of the popular video app $5.7 million for unlawfully collecting data from kids. The TikTok app, formerly known as Musical.ly, will now restrict functionality for kids 12 and under.
The FTC says TikTok violated the privacy law COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), which says web services can’t collect personally identifiable information (like email address, IP address, or geolocation information) from kids under 13 without parental consent.
“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,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons.
TikTok asks for a variety of personal identification from kids (and everybody else) on sign-up, and was setting that information to “public” (collectable and shareable) by default. TikTok will release a new version of the app today requiring users to state their date of birth before using the app. If a kid signs up and indicates an age under 13, they’ll be sent to a limited-function version of the app where they can’t record and publish videos within the TikTok or publish them directly to the TikTok network. TikTok says it will take down all videos shot by users under 13.
Since TikTok’s in-app video tools are one of the main attractions, kids will very likely lie about their age to get to them. This is standard operating procedure, as kids do the same thing to access other sites like Instagram or Facebook without parental consent.
You can read the full FTC statement here.
Hat tip: TechCrunch