TikTok, the popular video-sharing application earlier known as Musical.ly, has consented to a record $5.7m (£4.2m) fine with the US Federal Trade Commission in the wake of being blamed for unlawfully collecting personal data from youngsters under 13.
The application, which is possessed by the Chinese giant Bytedance, a private startup with a $75bn valuation, admitted to inappropriate information collection in an announcement following the settlement and said that it would start keeping more youthful clients in “age-appropriate TikTok environments”, where those under 13 would be pushed into a progressively passive job, ready to watch videos, however not post or remark on the stage.
“While we’ve always seen TikTok as a place for everyone, we understand the concerns that arise around younger users,” the organization said in an announcement. “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.”
The FTC, which set the quantity of TikTok clients worldwide at in excess of 200 million – with 33% of those in the US – said the organization had recently known that “a significant percentage of users were younger than 13”, the age at which American laws mandate strict data protections, “and received thousands of complaints from parents that their children under 13 had created Musical.ly accounts.”
Joe Simons, the FTC’s chairman, stated: “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.”
TikTok says its intended interest group is individuals matured somewhere in the range of 16 and 25, however the organization recognizes it has numerous clients more youthful than that range. “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 organization said.