May 14, 2020 - Technology

Advocacy groups want FTC probe into kids' privacy on TikTok

A photo illustration of a hand holding a smartphone with the TikTok logo on the screen.

Photo Illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A coalition of children's advocacy groups accused video-sharing platform TikTok of violating children's privacy and called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate in a complaint Thursday.

Why it matters: TikTok is facing heat from Washington over concerns about how well it's protecting kids who use its wildly popular app — and it paid $5.7 million last year to settle an FTC investigation alleging that a predecessor app illegally obtained children's personal information.

Details: The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy and others argue TikTok has not lived up to the terms of last year's FTC settlement and continues to violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by:

  • Failing to destroy personal information of users under 13 years old that was collected prior to the 2019 settlement.
  • Not giving proper notice to parents or obtaining their consent before collecting kids' personal information.
  • Not allowing parents to review or delete their children's personal information.

The other side: TikTok is working to alert lawmakers to its recent efforts to address a variety of concerns that have been raised on Capitol Hill, confirming to Axios that it circulated a packet among House and Senate offices this week describing its U.S. presence, its privacy policies and its work on child safety.

  • The company announced plans last month to give parents' greater control over how their teens use the app, and turned off direct messages for users under 16.
  • “We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users," a TikTok spokesperson said in response to the complaint.
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