We recently cautioned you about an app that your kids are probably using that you haven’t heard of. TikTok was one of the most downloaded apps in 2018, and it seems that by reporting on it, we the media have increased the curiosity factor and even more people are downloading it.
The problem with TikTok is that it specifically targets teens, it doesn’t offer parental controls, and it’s very easy to cover your steps and delete your activity. TikTok is in the news again because the FTC fined the app’s maker AND it’s surpassed 1 billion downloads, according to SensorTower (a site that tracks app downloads).
Allegations of illegally collecting kids’ data
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced this week that the operators of the TikTok app have agreed to pay a settlement of $5.7 million. The settlement comes from allegations that Musical.ly illegally collected personal information from children.
The complaint, filed by the Department of Justice, alleges that Musical.ly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA requires websites and online services to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from kids under the age of 13.
According to the FTC, “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.”
The FTC also said Musical.ly received thousands of complaints from parents that their children under 13 had created accounts without their consent. This is the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the FTC in a children’s privacy case, according to an FTC press release.
In addition to the huge fine, the settlement is forcing the app’s operators to take offline all videos made by kids younger than 13.
In response to the settlement, TikTok reps said it’s now implemented changes to accommodate younger users in the U.S. Children under 13 will have access to a limited, separate app experience with stronger safety and privacy protections.
The company put out a video series that explains things like how to choose a private account, enabling comment controls, and more. Click here if you want to check out the video series and community guidelines.
Is TikTok the new Facebook?
TikTok is off to a good start if it wants to give Facebook a serious run for its money. Not only is it capturing a huge chunk of the younger demographic that Facebook has been losing, but it’s also getting into trouble and making headlines, which seems have had little effect on whether people keep or dump Facebook.
What is TikTok?
TikTok has been around for a couple years. In November 2017, the company that owned it purchased Musical.ly and combined the two apps. It’s a social networking site that, among other things, kids use to make quick videos, up to 15 seconds each.
They can make condensed documentaries of what’s happening in their lives and share them with friends. The app also lets them add music to the videos from its library. So you’ll find lots of clips of users lip-syncing or creating short comedy sketches.
You can even collaborate with others by simply replying to one of their videos. It’s easy to see why this has become massively popular with kids. But is it safe for children?