It’s FTC official: TikTok must forfeit millions in COPPA fines. Is your website, app, or software in jeopardy of attracting the commission’s wrath too?
What is TikTok?
Tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings are congregating on the new social media platform TikTok. Originally an app called Musical.ly, TikTok is a database of user-generated, 15-second, multi-media clips. One of this year’s hotter online commodities, the platform rivals Facebook and Instagram in the Apple Store.
To register, people must provide an email, phone number, name, short bio, and a profile picture. And yes, the default privacy setting is “public.”
For the most part, users binge-watch addictive clips and can search by keyword or location.
What is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act?
Enacted in 2003, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is one of the nation’s few federal online privacy laws. Its goal is to guard the online identities of people under 13, and its parameters require parental consent at nearly every turn.
Administered by the Federal Trade Commission, COPPA violations are severe and can cost millions.
TikTok Collected Data on Kids and Got Slapped with a Giant Fine
TikTok’s COPPA problems arose from its origin app, Musical.ly. According to the FTC, the company knowingly collected personal data from kids without first securing parental consent. Even though the violations pre-dated the takeover, authorities saddled TikTok with $5.7 million in damages. In addition to the fine, the company agreed to remove all videos posted by account holders under 13 years old. TikTok also updated its birth-date verification procedures.
FTC chairman Joe Simons explained that the company irrevocably erred by failing to take action after discovering that kids used the app. He explained:
“The operators of Musical.ly—now known as TikTok—knew that 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.”
For its part, TikTok seems willing to work with the FTC. In a blog post, the company vowed:
“While we’ve always seen TikTok as a place for everyone, we understand the concerns that arise around younger users. In working with the FTC and in conjunction with today’s agreement, we’ve now implemented changes to accommodate younger U.S. users in a limited, separate app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for this audience.”
Are you COPPA compliant?
A consumer watchdog group reported TikTok to authorities, and they’re religiously on the prowl. The key to protecting your business from a multi-million-dollar fine is a COPPA compliance audit. If you need one, get in touch with our business lawyers today.
And fair warning, the FTC has made it clear that “companies cannot turn a blind eye to children on their online services. When a parent requests that a company delete personal information collected from a child, the company must do so, period.”
Get in touch today to get a COPPA audit. The minuscule investment now could save you millions in the future FTC fines.