TikTok app, which allowed users to create videos with audio tracks on the background has been fined with a record $5.7 Million penalty. Reportedly, the application was collecting data from children aged below 13. The United States Federal Trade Commission (US FTC) deems this as an illegal activity.
Let us take a closer look at what exactly did TikTok app do to be slapped with such a huge fine!
TikTok App Collecting Data from Children?
The laws in the US do not allow applications to collect data from children under 13 without parental consent. The FTC, in a statement, said that Musical.ly (which is now known as TikTok app) was fully aware that children under the age of 13 were using its platform. However, the app did not do anything to seek parental consent.
TikTok app collected data such as names and e-mail addresses of the children, as well as other personal data. Here’s a statement from FTC chairman Joe Simons explaining it in detail:
“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.”
Furthermore, the FTC added, that back when the TikTok app was functioning under the name of Musical.ly, all profiles were public by default. This meant that direct messages could be sent to the kids. Moreover, even if the preferences were set to ‘private’, messages could still be sent out to the kids.
The FTC also pointed out that there are public reports of adults trying to contact children over the TikTok app (Musical.ly). Moreover, the FTC also highlighted the fact that up until October 2016, there was a feature in the app which allowed people to view users who are in the 50-mile radius.
The TikTok app has since introduced a number of safety features for kids such as a ‘separate app experience’. This mode provides additional privacy for kids. However, how safe is the TikTok app really? let us take a closer look!
What is the TikTok App?
For the uninitiated, TikTok has grown in popularity over the past year. The application allows users to express their creativity. Users act out a scene or dance while an audio track plays in the background. In China, TikTok is more popular than Snapchat! Interestingly, the app is known as Douyin in China.
The TikTok app started off as a video-sharing app then known as Musical.ly. The app was developed by a Shanghai-based firm and created by Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang. Having started off in 2014, it gained momentum in 2015 – and got acquired by Chinese firm ByteDance in 2017 for $1 Billion!
How Safe is TikTok?
For any application that grows as big as TikTok has, there are always safety concerns. The TikTok app has raised major safety concerns – especially since the data of kids is at a risk. This data can cause the kids to become potential targets for criminals.
Apart from the data collection controversy, there’s another major concern. Adults are asking inappropriate images from kids over the app’s messaging feature. Reports from Vice point out that there is a community of people who are soliciting explicit pictures of young kids on the app. These details are horrifying and raise major alarms when it comes to the TikTok app.