Lawmakers Urge Probe of TikTok on Children’s Privacy

Following the rapid rise in the use of technology by children during the coronavirus pandemic, a bipartisan group of four senators on Friday urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate new evidence that the popular video social media platform TikTok has violated the privacy of its young users and failed to abide by the terms of a 2019 settlement with the FTC.

The Senators make their request following the Commission’s announcement that it will begin an ahead-of-schedule review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule and as kids’ technology use and media consumption has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the FTC placed TikTok under a consent decree after finding that the company had repeatedly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

That settlement required the app to take several steps to improve their privacy practices. However, new research findings from leading children’s privacy experts suggest that TikTok failed to delete all information collected about users under age 13, failed to follow multiple legally binding transparency requirements, and failed to give parents the option to review and delete their children’s data from the platform.

“Federal privacy laws, regulations promulgated under those laws, and consent decrees resulting from privacy violations are effective only if they are vigorously enforced,”  wrote the Senators in their letter to the FTC Chairman and Commissioners. “As the ongoing public health crisis continues to catalyze children’s increased tech use, the FTC must increase its attention to the dangers that minors encounter online, including the manipulation of kids’ attention and their data for advertising dollars.”

Chinese-owned TikTok has been downloaded over 100 million times in the U.S. and has seen increased growth as many Americans stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.