Looks like popularity came with a hefty price for TikTok! Right when this lip-syncing app was rejoicing its inclusion into the big-billion clan, it’s been slapped with a record-breaking fine. Surely, a hefty price!
According to the Federal Trade Commission, TikTok has been illegally collecting information from children who are under the age of 13. The agency announced on Wednesday that Musical.ly, now dubbed as TikTok, has settled at paying a record-breaking fine of $5.7 million in order to shrug off allegations. The agency has described it as “the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case.”
Furthermore, TikTok has been asked to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA. Under this, it has to take down all videos that have been uploaded by any user who comes under the age of 13.
“This record penalty should be a reminder to all online services and websites that target children: We take enforcement of COPPA very seriously, and we will not tolerate companies that flagrantly ignore the law,” FTC chair Joe Simons.
Again, on an ironical grandstand, TikTok hits a stonewall in what seems like a REALLY bad timing; the ruling comes just when TikTok celebrated ‘one billion’ milestone as well as on the same day as it began promoting its new safety series. Yes, talk about the rotten reserve and this lip-sync app will ace it!
COPPA Confronts TikTok With How-To Lessons!
According to the U.S. children’s privacy law, COPPA, apps, and websites allowing younger user base, below the age of 13 cannot collect personal information like email address, geo-location details or similar identifiers without parental acquiescence.
However, according to the Federal Trade Commission, Musical.ly sought an email address, phone number, username, first and last name, a short description, and a profile picture. The app allowed users to connect and interact with each other by commenting publicly or sending Direct messages. Furthermore, accounts being public by default added up to the risk factors. Given that, an under-age profile, picture or video has always been on public display was explained by FTC in a press release.
Adding up to the woes, it has been reported that there were incidents wherein adults tried contacting children over the platform and up until 2016, the app allowed a user to detect other users within a 50-mile radius.
A Rundown on the Settlement:
As part of the settlement, TikTok seeks new as well as existing users to add their original age and as for the existing ones, the changes will be made accordingly.
TikTok’s trust and safety team have been on their feet ever since the disclosure have been making headlines. It even issued a response as quick aftermath, claiming that they are taking additional measures to ensure increased safety for children under 13. The company is planning to roll-out another in-app experience for under-age users which will nail down “extensive limitations on content and user interaction.”
“In the younger ecosystem, users cannot do things like sharing their videos on TikTok, comment on others’ videos, share messages with users, or maintain a profile or followers,” TikTok Team.
However, the experience for adult users remains the same as earlier. For those under 13, there will be imposed restrictions preventing video stream, maintaining user profiles, messaging or commenting on the platform. Additional measures seek Government ID proof confirming their age. Users have already started reporting about accounts and previously-uploaded videos being taken down, given the age.
Will this affect TikTok’s growth? Pretty much popular among youngsters, all these changes are bound to impact the growth rate of TikTok given the user-base has been specifically sprouting with teenagers. In India alone, it has a celebrated more-than 250 million downloads.
One thing that’s for sure right now is that this move will ensure TikTok as a level playing field as of now, entertaining a “mixed audience” like other social apps.