Advocacy groups have filed a complaint against TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, for violating US child privacy laws — as well as an agreement the platform made with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last year.
The 2019 FTC complaint accused TikTok of breaching the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), allowing users younger than 13 to create accounts without consent from their parents. In the settlement, TikTok paid a $5.7 million fine and agreed to take down all videos made by children.
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But now the twenty advocacy groups, which include the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, say that TikTok has failed to remove some of those videos.
They further allege that TikTok hasn’t taken enough action to prevent users under the age of 13 from registering.
The platform collects user information to share with third parties, but doesn’t communicate this to parents. “Thus, TikTok has no means of obtaining verifiable parental consent before any collection, use, or disclosure of children’s personal information as required by the consent decree and COPPA rule,” the complaint says. While there is a version of the platform for those under 13, children can easily switch to standard TikTok by falsely changing their birthdate.
TikTok isn’t the only company to face scrutiny over user data. In a settlement with the FTC last September, YouTube paid a $170 fine for collecting data on child users and violating the COPPA Act. Just a few months before that, Facebook paid a record-breaking $5 billion fine for breaching user privacy. This March, a Chinese gaming company was forced to sell Grindr after mounting pressure from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, which cited concerns over user data leaks. It will be far from smooth sailing for TikTok, which has faced increasing scrutiny from US officials.
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