After a huge across the globe, China’s TikTok (known as Douyin in China) has hit a bumper in the United States of America. This popular video-sharing app has got into trouble and agreed to pay a fine of $5.7 million as a fine.
This app got accused of illegally collecting private data from teenagers under the age of 13. That personal information included children’s email, names, their address and location.
According to a statement released by the US Federal Trade Commission, this fine is charged for a child privacy case.
ByteDance, a $75 billion startup, owns TikTok. This app quickly got popular across the globe and gained over half a billion users. It is proven more successful than other Chinese-owned social media apps and sites. While other Chinese social media ventures failed to gain any success outside China, TikTok gained a huge response.
The fine is originally related to Musical.ly, which was a similar app to TikTok bought by ByteDance back in 2017 and later merged with TikTok in the last year. The investigation was in progress against Musical.ly that revealed some unethical practices.
That alleged app was gathering and sharing the location of young kids. Although thousands of parents registered complaints against this action, the company did not take any action to remove that personal information about underage kids. Musical.ly kept that information for a long time and used it illegally.
TikTok management has also released a statement, showing commitment to create measures and protect users.
This company has recently launched a new and separate app for younger users in the USA. They cannot perform many operations like sharing their creative videos on TikTok, chat with other users, commenting on other videos, maintaining followers and a profile. They will also need parents’ assent to create an account.
When Musical.ly was first introduced in 2014, it allowed users to upload and share their short videos lipsyncing to popular movies scenes and songs. It was necessary for the users to share their phone number, email ID, name, and a short bio to create an account.
Collecting such personal details was enough to prove Musical.ly was violating the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA.
Many youngsters had registered on Musically, revealing their age, birth date, photos, and schools, as FTC mentioned in its complaint.
Musical.ly had succeeded in gaining over 65 million registered users in the US only before it merged with TikTok. Thousands of parents had complained to the company, requesting their teenage children had joined the app without their assent. According to COPPA’s guidelines, internet companies must gain verifiable parental consent before gathering, disclosing, or using personal details collected from children.
When numerous parents complained, Musical.ly simply shot down preteens’ accounts. It did not remove underage users’ profile details and videos from its servers, as FTC complaint revealed.
In several instances, adults tried to communicate children through the Musical.ly app. The commission also said that the alleged app also allowed other users to find users in a 50-mile radius along with their location till October 2016.
Along with $5.7 million fine, TikTok also agreed to remove all the videos published by children under age 13.
TikTok is certainly not the only company that violated the United States’ child privacy law. Verizon (VZ) owned Oath had also agreed to pay $5 million in December for misusing information as geolocation and cookies to put online ads on web portals targeting preteens.
Playdon, a subsidiary of Disney, was also agreed to pay $3 million as a settlement in 2011 for gathering and showcasing children’s details in multiplayer online games. Companies, which did not comply with the laws, have been fined in the USA time-and-again.