TikTok Hit With Record $5.7 Million FTC Fine for Illegally Collected Child User Data

Popular app failed to get parental consent for its users 13-years-old and younger

Last Updated: February 27, 2019 @ 12:07 PM

Popular short-form video app TikTok has agreed to pay a record $5.7 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission after it “illegally collected personal information from children,” the FTC said on Wednesday.

The app failed to obtain parental consent of users under the age of 13, putting it in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, according to the FTC. Under COPPA, all apps and websites are unable to grab personal information like IP and email addresses from its users without parental consent.

The FTC started looking into the app when it was known as Musical.ly; it was shuttered last year and its 100 million active users were merged with TikTok. The app, which specializes in clips that are 15 seconds or less, now has more than 500 million global users.

“The operators of Musical.ly — now known as TikTok — knew many children were using the app but they still failed to seek parental consent before collecting names, email addresses, and other personal information from users under the age of 13,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. “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.”

The fine is the “largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case,” the FTC said in its announcement.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to TechCrunch, TikTok will update its site to require all users to verify their age and any users 13 or younger will not be able to publish videos but directed to a more restricted version of TikTok that safeguards user information.

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