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Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

TikTok, a short-form video app owned by Chinese tech giant Bytedance, has agreed to a $5.7 million settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for illegally collecting personal data from children.

Why it matters: It's the largest settlement from a violation of The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the law's 20+ year history. While $5.7 million may seem small, it's significantly larger than the next biggest COPPA violation, which resulted in a $3 million settlement by Disney-owned social games studio Playdom in 2011.

Details: The complaint, filed to the FTC by the U.S. Justice Department, alleges that Musical.ly (a karaoke app that was acquired and integrated by TikTok's parent company in 2017) obtained the personal information of children under 13 years old without consent.

  • "This ruling underscores what we have long known: Companies like TikTok do not consider children’s personal information out of bounds," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), an author of COPPA. "This fine may be an historic high for a COPPA violation, but it is not high enough for the harm that is done to children."
  • In response to the settlement, TikTok said it updated its app to include additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for younger U.S. users.

Be smart: TikTok has built a mobile empire and is beginning to compete with the likes of Facebook for the attention of young users.

  • A new report from Digiday finds that TikTok's U.S. user base has grown to 26.5
    million monthly active users, who on average open the app 8 times for a total of 46 minutes per day.
  • New figures from data insights firm SensorTower suggest that TikTok has surpassed 1 billion downloads on iOS and Android.

Our thought bubble: While conversations around children's privacy have increased over the past year alongside the national privacy debate, this case will certainly draw even more attention to the way tech giants mine data through apps targeted to kids.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The new digital extortion

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

If you run a hospital, a bank, a utility or a city, chances are you'll be hit with a ransomware attack. Given the choice between losing your precious data or paying up, chances are you'll pay.

Why it matters: Paying the hackers is the clear short-term answer for most organizations hit with these devastating attacks, but it's a long-term societal disaster, encouraging hackers to continue their lucrative extortion schemes.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC mask guidance sparks confusion, questions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CDC's surprise guidance last week freeing the fully vaccinated to go maskless sowed plenty of concerns across the country— even earning the "Saturday Night Live" treatment for all the questions it spurred.

Why it matters: With plenty of Americans still unvaccinated — and without any good way to confirm who has been vaccinated — some experts worry this could put many at increased risk.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Israel-Hamas aerial bombardments enter second week

A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Israel and Hamas continued aerial bombardments into Monday morning, as fighting entered a second week.

Why it matters: The worst violence in the region since 2014 has resulted in the deaths of 197 people in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, and 10 in Israel. 58 Palestinian children and two Israeli children are among those killed since the aerial exchanges began on May 10, Reuters notes.