At least twenty advocacy groups have accused TikTok of violating child privacy regulations in the US and breaching a settlement that the viral video app agreed with the Federal Trade Commission last year over a previous privacy complaint.
The groups, which include the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have all filed complaints with the US Watchdog saying that they believe that the social media platform is “in contempt” of the terms of the 2019 settlement, as well as children’s privacy regulations.
ArsTechnica reports that TikTok, owned by Chinese tech group ByteDance, was fined $5.7-million in February last year for illegally collecting children’s data as it began to rise in popularity among teens in the West.
Now, according to the advocacy groups’ complaint, “more than a year later, with quarantined kids and families flocking to the site in record numbers, TikTok has failed to delete personal information previously collected from children and is still collecting kids’ personal information without notice to and consent of parents”.
TikTok claims it had not yet seen the latest complaint. In a statement, the company says “We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users.”
Last month, TikTok topped 2-billion downloads, according to data from Sensor Tower, after it was installed more than 315-million times via the App Store and Google Play in the first quarter of the year alone, a quarterly record for any app to date.
Calling for an investigation into the matter and sanctions on TikTok, the consumer and child privacy groups claim that the company had failed to delete personal information collected from users aged 13 and under prior to the 2019 settlement order – a direct breach of the terms of the agreement.
The groups also argued that the app doesn’t have appropriate mechanisms for receiving parental consent for the collection of certain data belonging to children on the platform, or for allowing parents to delete that personal information. Something that is in violation of the US consent decree and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
“We easily found that many accounts featuring children were still present on TikTok. Many of these accounts have tens of thousands to millions of followers, and have been around since before the order,” says Michael Rosenbloom, staff attorney at the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law, which is representing the advocates.
“We urge the FTC to hold TikTok to account for continuing to violate both COPPA and its consent decree.”
The news comes just hours after the Dutch data protection agency announced an investigation into whether TikTok “adequately protects” the privacy of Dutch children and “adequately explains how their personal data is collected, processed, and used.”
TikTok says it was “fully cooperating” with the Dutch watchdog regarding its privacy investigation.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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