TikTok Violates Children's Privacy Despite 2019 Assurance: US Agencies Launch Investigation

The FTC and Justice Department officials have questioned two people as part of the probe into TikTok.

The Federal Trade Commission and the US Justice Department have reportedly launched an investigation into the allegations that popular Chinese App TikTok has violated children's privacy, despite an agreement signed in 2019. As part of the investigation, the agencies have interviewed two people so far.

India has already banned TikTok and other popular Chinese apps following a major clash between the Chinese and Indian troops at Galwan Valley, located in eastern Ladakh in India.

TikTok logo YouTube grab

Two People Questioned During Investigations

As part of the ongoing investigation, FTC and Justice Department officials questioned two people including a staff member at the Massachusetts tech policy group in separate conference calls. The investigators questioned the two about TikTok violating the agreement announced in February 2019, Reuters reported.

David Monahan, a campaign manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told the agency that officials from both the FTC, which reached the original consent agreement with TikTok, and Justice Department, which often files court documents for the FTC, met via video with representatives of the groups to discuss the matter. "I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint," Monahan said.

A TikTok spokesman said they take "safety seriously for all our users," adding that in the United States they "accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience."

How Does TikTok Violate Children's Privacy?

Owned by Chinese company ByteDance, the social media platform has risen considerably on the popularity charts, especially among the youngsters. The US has nearly 30 million subscribers.

A group of 20 agencies including Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy had filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against TikTok in May this year. The coalition alleged that TikTok was collecting personal information of kids under 13 without their parents' consent.

Reportedly, TikTok collects its user data, including location, messages content and videos they watch frequently, in order to ascertain the videos and targeted advertisements to show them on their timeline.

Notably, TikTok had paid a fine of $5.7 million to the FTC for collecting personal information from kids under 13, for violation of the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Though it claimed to have upgraded the app with a restricted mode for younger users, many feel that it still violates the agreement.

Earlier, speaking to Fox News, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had confirmed that stated that the country is contemplating a ban on Tik Tok and other Chinese social media apps in wake of privacy concerns.