Chinese video-sharing app TikTok has been hit by a record $5.7m fine after it was found to have illegally gathered the personal data of children aged 13 and under; including names, email and addresses.
The fine was levied by the US Federal Trade Commission following an investigation into the Musical.ly video sharing app, acquired by TikTok parent Bytedance in 2017 and subsequently merged with the video platform last August.
Following their investigation the FTC said it had ‘uncovered disturbing practices', including collecting and exposing the location of young people. TikTok was accused of ignoring requests from parents to delete the information it held.
In response to the scandal, TikTok has now set up a ‘separate’ pared down app for children, which removes the ability to share, comment, message or post a profile. It has also pulled all videos posted by pre-teens.
Musical.ly first rose to prominence in 2014 by allowing members to upload short clips of themselves miming popular songs, during the registration process however users had to hand over their personal details – in violation of the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
When parents subsequently complained Musical.ly merely shutdown the specific accounts rather than delete their records.
Bytedance was previously fined by the Chinese government for running illegal medical advertisements on news items and video clips.