On February 28, the video social networking app Musical.ly, now known as TikTok, was fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for illegally collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.
This is the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case.
The complaint was filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the Commission due to Musical.ly’s violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which gives parents control over what information websites can collect from their kids. It is reported that the illegally collected information from children include their names, email and household address.
According to the executives of TikTok, illegal collection of data occured before the mergence of Musical.ly and TikTok in August last year.
The $5.7 million fine is part of the dispute settlement between FTC and Musical.ly. According to the official statements of Musical.ly, “In working with the FTC 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.”
It is also stated that in the separate app for younger users, users can no longer share their videos on TikTok, comment on others’ videos, message with users, or maintain a profile or followers. It will become solely a place for them to showcase their talents and creativity.
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According to the exposure from FTC, up until this Wednesday, Musical.ly/TikTok has 65 million registered users in America, ranking 4th and 25th on Google Play and Apple’s App Store respectively in terms of downloads. According to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence, the total worldwide downloads of the app has surpassed one billion on App Store and Google Play.
Featured photo credit to Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times