FTC’s Record Fine to TikTok Makes One Thing Clear: Illegally Collecting Kids’ Data Won’t Be Tolerated

February 27, 2019, 10:58 PM UTC

Musical.ly, the lip-dubbing app that became a part of video app TikTok last year, agreed on Wednesday to pay the Federal Trade Commission $5.7 million over allegations that it collected personal information from children under the age of 13 without getting 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,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement.

It’s the largest civil penalty ever collected in a privacy case related to children, according to the FTC’s news release.

The TikTok app allows users to create short 15-second videos, showing everything from dancing to silly stunts, which can then be strung together to create minute-long stories that can be shared with other people on the social platform.

In a statement posted to its website, the company said it will create “a limited, separate app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically” for a younger audience.

“In the younger ecosystem, users cannot do things like share their videos on TikTok, comment on others’ videos, message with users, or maintain a profile or followers. However, they will be able to experience what TikTok is at its core—showcasing creativity—as they enjoy curated content and experiment with TikTok’s unique, fanciful, and expressive features,” the statement said.

The app’s tremendous growth and popularity has allowed it to become a Facebook rival. TikTok is available for iOS and Android users, and has been download more than one billion times, according to data from SensorTower, a mobile market insights company.

The bulk of those downloads, 663 million, happened in 2018, putting TikTok on par with other tech giants. Facebook’s app was downloaded an estimated 711 million times last year, while Instagram had 444 million downloads, according to SensorTower estimates.


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