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TikTok video-sharing app fined for collection of children's data

TikTok video-sharing app fined for collection of children's data

"Both current and new TikTok users will be directed to the age-appropriate app experience, beginning today", the service added.

The penalty by the social network, which had been formerly known as Musical.ly, was the largest ever in a children's privacy investigation, said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

After running into trouble in the United States over the "child privacy" case, TikTok has now assured that it will continue to explore ways to expand and evolve its protective measures for global users.

The Musical.ly app allowed users to create videos of them lip syncing to popular songs.

The site, owned by China's ByteDance, boasted of 500 million users as of June following the purchase a year ago of Musical.ly, which greatly expanded TikTok's reach in the US.

The collected information included names, email addresses, phone numbers and profile pictures, which were needed to register for the app. Accounts made over Musical.ly were also set on public by default, which allowed adults to track and even contact underage users over the platform, the FTC said in its announcement. However, many kids as young as 8 or 9 continued to use the app.

When some parents asked to have the data of their children deleted, TikTok deleted a child's account but retained videos and personal account information about those users on its servers, the agency said. Also, the non-game app stood first in the U.S. last month.

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Musical.ly operators knew that numerous app's users were under 13, the FTC said.

"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", TikTok said.

You can read the full FTC statement here.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., one of the authors of COPPA, said in a statement that while this may be a record-high fine, it's not high enough given the harm done to children and the need to deter other companies from doing the same thing. "I urge the FTC to make COPPA enforcement a top priority and protect the privacy of a uniquely vulnerable class of Americans, our children". Facebook said February 20 that it wasn't in contact with the FTC over the issue.

"It is no secret that tech companies are illegally and knowingly collecting personal information from children", Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, said in a statement.

"It is known that India does not have any laws which specifically protect the privacy of children in the online space".

Common Sense Media was part of a coalition of consumer and privacy groups that filed a complaint with the FTC past year alleging YouTube routinely violates COPPA, but the commission - as is its standard practice when receiving complaints - has declined to comment on whether it is pursuing an investigation.


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