ByteDance, TikTok’s Parent Company, Is Being Sued For Violating Child Privacy Laws

TikTok (formerly known as Musical.ly) has exploded into the hands of mobile phone users all around the world. This app is a Chinese-owned video-sharing app, much like other social media apps where you can like, follow, and comment on other user’s profiles. Users can shoot and share a short video clip and add music, filters, special effects, and other unique features to the clip. 

TikToks parent company, ByteDance, is being sued again for allegedly collecting data of children ages 13 and below, and selling it to third-party advertisers.

What Is ByteDance And TikTok?

ByteDance acquired the app Musical.ly in 2017, which later rebranded into the app known as TikTok. TikTok became one of the world’s most downloaded apps in 2018. With Musical.ly already having a significant online presence with 100 million monthly users, TikTok was targeting users generally under the age of 24. Now, TikTok has about 800 million monthly active users worldwide, and 80 million app downloads just in the United States. However, there are older users on the app like Jimmy Fallon and other celebrities. 

Child Privacy Laws and ByteDance

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) states that social media companies are forbidden to collect data from children without explicit consent from a parent. A violation of this act can result in potential lawsuits from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

ByteDance has already faced some problems concerning this activity earlier this year. TikTok has to pay $5.7 million to settle acquisitions that it violated COPPA. 

“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,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons stated in a press release. The FTC said the $5.7 million settlement is the most substantial civil penalty ever in a children’s privacy case. 

Changes Made To TikTok

According to a statement, TikTok will be launching a separate in-app experience that will be made available for children under the age of 13 who are using the app. In this new feature, it will set limitations for the content that these younger users are able to view as well as limiting the user interaction. 

“In the younger ecosystem, users cannot do things like share their videos on TikTok, comment on others’ videos, message with users, or maintain a profile or followers,” the statement reads.

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