The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it had reached a settlement with TikTok, formerly known as the tween-friendly app Musical.ly, over charges that the popular app illegally collected information on users below the age of 13. Doing so violated COPPA, or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which is meant to protect children online. TikTok will pay $5.7 million for the violation.
FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement that Musical.ly “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.” While it is not out of the realm of possibility that an internet user would lie about their age (noooo!!!!), the fine also stems from the fact that the app-maker had received “thousands of complaints” from parents about children under 13 creating accounts.
In addition to the hefty fine, TikTok will now start splitting audiences. “Beginning today, this additional app experience now allows us to split users into age-appropriate TikTok environments, in line with FTC guidance for mixed audience apps,” its announcement reads. “The new environment for younger users does not permit the sharing of personal information, and it puts extensive limitations on content and user interaction. Both current and new TikTok users will be directed to the age-appropriate app experience, beginning today.”
Finally, the app is launching a series of video tutorials teaching users how to enable or tweak privacy controls. That includes limiting comments, deciding who can send a user messages, and using the in-app process for reporting possible self-harm.