Children’s data privacy violation attracts record fine

Children’s data privacy violation attracts record fine for kid’s social media app
| Another social media company in violatyion of data privacy regulations.

The company behind the social media app,TikTok, a short-form video sharing app, has been fined a record $5.7 million (£4.3 million) for illegally collecting personal information of children under age 13. The collected data includes; names, email addresses, images and locations.

TikTok has agreed to pay the fine, for violations of U.S. child privacy laws and must implement effective measures to handle users who say they are under 13 years of age.

Formerly known as Musical.ly, the TikTok app has an age rating of 12+ and is described on the App Store as:

“…not your ordinary destination for short-form mobile video. It’s raw, real, and without boundaries—whether you’re brushing your teeth at 7:45 a.m. or you’re making breakfast at 7:45 p.m. It’s from the gut, ‘come as you are’ storytelling told in 15 seconds. With TikTok life’s more fun when you live in the moment and go beyond to explore.”

Chinese owner, Bytedance Technology Co., acquired Musical.ly Inc in 2017 for $1 billion and in August, 2018, merged TikTok with the musical.ly app and retained the name TikTok.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the Musical.ly app, which was later acquired and incorporated into TikTok, knowingly hosted content published by underage users.
It has ordered TikTok to delete the data.

Apparently, the apps operators knew that many children were using the app, but they did not seek parental consent before collecting personal information from users under the age of 13.

In a news release last Wednesday, FTC Chairman Joe Simons said:

This record penalty should be a reminder to all online services and websites that target children.

The FTC further said that TikTok has had more than 200 million downloads. The original Musical.ly app required each user to provide their name, email address and phone number, and post a profile picture. Up until October 2016, the app also captured the locations of its users and allowed them to see which other users were located within a 50-mile radius.

The FTC also reported receiving thousands of complaints from parents of young children using the app. According to the regulators, Musical.ly was contacted by some 300 worried parents over a 2-week period in September 2016 and altough the accounts of the child users involved were deactivated, the content posted by the child was not deleted.

In imposing the fine, the FTC said what it saw was Musical.ly’s failure to adhere to the basic principles of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as Coppa. Obligations include being transparent about the way in which children’s data is collected and used, as well as a process for informing parents that their child is using the service, and to obtain their consent.

As with most social network platforms, verification of age is based on trust. Anyone signing up can easily lie about their date of birth in order to get around the check.

A spokesperson for the company said:

We care deeply about the safety and privacy of our users, …This is an ongoing commitment, and we are continuing to expand and evolve our protective measures in support of this.

Sources and credits: BBC News, The Washington Post

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