TikTok Ban: US cracks down as Chinese app collects worrying amount of data on children

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The claims say the popular Chinese social media app – now banned in India and facing a possible ban in the US – failed to follow a 2019 agreement which protects children’s privacy. The Federal Trade Commission and the US Justice Department are probing the allegations made against TikTok. 

According to Reuters, a Massachusetts tech policy group member said they took part in calls with the FTC and Justice Department.

The talks reportedly included discussions about TikTok’s alleged failure to respect an agreement made in February 2019.

The claims against the video sharing app were made by the Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others.

In May the groups asked the FTC to investigate their allegations that TikTok failed to delete videos and personal information about app users aged 13 and under among other violations.

It is not clear yet whether any action has been taken against the Chinese app by either the FTC or US Justice Department.

A spokesman for TikTok said the firm takes “safety seriously for all our users”.

They also added that in the US they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”

The FTC set up a consent agreement with TikTok in February last year.

Together with the Justice Department, the FTC reportedly met via video link with the campaign groups to discuss the allegations.

David Monahan, a campaign manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told Reuters about the video meeting.

He said: “I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint.”

Another source confirmed to Reuters that the campaign groups had met officials from the two agencies in order to examine the concerns that TikTok violated the consent agreement.

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The privacy advocacy organisations filed the complaints in May.

After the allegations were made, TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide said: “We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users.”

The consent agreement made in February last year highlighted that TikTok knew young children used the app and failed to get parental consent to collect their names, email addresses and other personal information.

The video sharing app agreed to pay a fine of $5.7 million.

But, the campaign groups said TikTok failed to delete personal information from users aged 12 and younger as it had promised in the consent agreement.

The complaint read: “We found that TikTok currently has many regular account holders who are under age 13, and many of them still have videos of themselves that were uploaded as far back as 2016, years prior to the consent decree.”

The campaign groups added: “TikTok continues to be one of the most popular apps in the world, and it is widely used by children and teens in the United States, so it is especially important that the FTC promptly and thoroughly investigate TikTok’s practices and take effective enforcement action.”


This comes as Fox News revealed that President Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is seeking to ban TikTok in the US.

Mr Pompeo reportedly said that the possible ban is in response to fears the Chinese app is being used by Beijing’s government to disperse propaganda and to spy on users.

Mr Trump and his Secretary of State are taking the reports of Beijing surveillance and propaganda through TikTok extremely seriously.

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