TikTok has been ordered to pay a whopping $5.7 million dollars for violating child privacy laws. Previously known as Musical.ly, the social media site is popular among kids and preteens who share lip-syncing videos online. The reason behind the fine is that the company reportedly knew that it hosted content published by children under the age of 13, which is against TikTok’s guidelines.
According to CNN, TikTok is being accused of collecting and exposing personal information of young children without parental consent. It’s been noted by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that this is the largest child privacy related civil penalty on record.
"We care deeply about the safety and privacy of our users," a representative for TikTok said in a statement that was released to the press. "This is an ongoing commitment, and we are continuing to expand and evolve our protective measures in support of this."
In addition, the Federal Trade Commision said in a statement that they had uncovered “disturbing” practices, which included collecting data and even exposing the location of young children. Even though there were thousands of complaints made by parents, TikTok never complied with their requests to delete their information and records about underage children.
For those parents will worried about their children using TikTok, the company has said that of this week, users in the U.S. will be required to verify their age before opening the app. Unfortunately, the verification will be implemented on a trust basis, meaning that there is no confirmation or backup that suggests the user is being honest. All TikTok users need to do is to submit a date of birth before using the app.
TikTok also revealed that they will soon introduce a separate app that will allow younger children under the age of 13 to experience the social media site, but without sharing their videos, commenting on other users’ videos or messaging users. They also won’t be able to maintain a profile or followers. They also plan to release a series of tutorials to help better educate children and parents about their privacy settings and how to change them, calling it an “ongoing commitment” to protect their users.
The company said that it would not be asking existing users in other countries to verify their age. TikTok was first released back in September of 2016, is available in 38 languages and has over 500 million users worldwide.