USA TODAY tech expert Jefferson Graham explains the pros and cons of your childrens’ favorite apps.
TikTok, a popular video-sharing app, has agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that it illegally collected personal information from children.
The FTC’s complaint, filed by the Department of Justice, alleged that TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA. The act requires websites and online services to direct children under 13 to get parental consent before collecting personal information.
The operators of the app “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 said in a statement Wednesday.
It’s the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the FTC in a children’s privacy case, according to the agency.
“This record penalty should be a reminder to all online services and websites that target children: We take enforcement of COPPA very seriously, and we will not tolerate companies that flagrantly ignore the law,” Simons said.
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With the app, which has been downloaded more than 200 million times worldwide, users create short videos lip-syncing to music and then can share those videos with other users. About 65 million accounts have been registered in the U.S. and user accounts were public by default, according to the FTC.
As part of the settlement, TikTok has to comply with the privacy protection act and to take down all videos made by children under the age of 13.
“It’s our priority to create a safe and welcoming experience for all of our users, and as we developed the global TikTok platform, we’ve been committed to creating measures to further protect our user community – including tools for parents to protect their teens and for users to enable additional privacy settings,” the company said in a statement.
TikTok launched a series of videos to educate users Wednesday and “implemented changes to accommodate younger US users in a limited, separate app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for this audience.”
The company says this “additional app experience now allows us to split users into age-appropriate TikTok environments” and doesn’t permit the sharing of personal data.
Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, in a statement companies need to be held accountable and update to the privacy protection act are needed “to ensure all vulnerable young people, including young teens, are protected.”
“This case should put tech companies on notice that continued disregard for COPPA will result in penalties and consumer mistrust that can seriously impact their business,” Steyer said.
Apple’s latest mobile software, iOS 12, tightens up security and privacy issues on iPhones. To get the most out of the updates though, you might have tweak a setting or two. Here’s how to take full advantage of them.
Jennifer Jolly for USA Today
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
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