TikTok, the explosively popular app that allows kids and teens to create and share short videos, just got fined $5.7 million for illegally collecting data from children under the age of 13. That includes private information such as their names, email addresses and more, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
“The operators of Musical.ly, now known as TikTok, knew 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,” says the FTC’s statement.
TikTok’s growth has been well documented and reported. If you’ve never used the app, you’ve still likely heard of it. With over a billion downloads in a short period of time, it inspired Facebook to release Lasso, their own version of the looping video format. The app has been unsuccessful, like most of Facebook’s endeavors that appeal to a young demographic.
Mashable explains that when TikTok was Musica.ly, its settings were set to public by default. Afterwards, if users chose to set their profiles to private, strangers could still contact them via DM. This history has understandably caused some problems for an app that’s mainly used by kids.
TikTok Tips: chat ONLY with the people you know 💬 pic.twitter.com/MLKhYzAkxR
— TikTok (@tiktok_us) February 27, 2019
On February 27, TikTok announced a separate app experience that has extra privacy protections for underage users. “This additional app experience now allows us to split users into age-appropriate TikTok environments, in line with FTC guidance for mixed audience apps,” says the company’s press release.
Although the measures show that TikTok is trying to fix their problems, they’re still a little clunky, in some instances requesting users to upload images of their government issued ID as a way of proving their age.