Out of all the social media apps that were released after 2017, TikTok has become the most successful and relevant app. At this platform one can viral memes, share comedy sketches and monologue, lip-syncing music videos, and challenges. With its 2 billion downloads, the app is taking over the internet and has been in the limelight for its popularity, but now the reason of its buzz has moved towards the concerns related to its privacy for children under the age of 13.
Particularly when it comes to child security, it is important for every social media site to main their privacy settings which can protect children for predators. But it seems that TikTok is becoming a hunting ground for children exploiters, who are able to connect with children through TikTok’s internal messaging settings. In February 2019, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance agreed to pay a fine of $5.7 million to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), for the allegations that TikTok has been collecting the private data illegally of children who are using the platform.
TikTok paid $5.7 million to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Even though TikTok denied the allegation by stating that they do not permit children under the age of 13 to access the app, but there are many kids who use the app. This disrupts the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which aims to protect kids under 13 from being exploited on the internet and restricting third-party companies from collecting their data/information without guardian’s permission.
The fine paid by TikTok to FTC is estimated as the highest price ever collected in the name of children’s protection. This settlement will likely have a great impression on the companies which are being careless about child protection and security.
In 2018, TikTok surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube in monthly downloads.
Today, the app has 500 million users across the globe, in which most of the users are children. The app generally asks children under 13 not to access the app, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has claimed that the app is intentionally hosting children on its app. TikTok asks users’ data including first and last names, phone numbers, email addresses, biographies, as well as profile pictures to access the app, which somehow gives complete information to the users who might be waiting to predate the innocent.
The operators of TikTok knew many children are using the app; still, they failed to get parental consent before collecting kids information including email addresses, and other personal data. Chairperson of FTC stated that they will not spare anyone who will ignore guidelines and law to protect kids from online exploitation.
On a survey done by National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, revealed that 40,000 students are using the app in the U.S. It found that 25% of children had connected with a stranger on TikTok and one in 20 children were requested by these outsiders on TikTok to strip during live streams.
TikTok has also been a topic in schools- in England, schools are warning parents not to allow their kids to use the app. Schools’ authorities are informing parents about the consequences of the app. Lawmakers of other countries are also trying to get the app banned from their place for allegedly spreading hate speech and promoting racism.
TikTok presents a new state of concern, as the app is available on smartphones, which is easily accessible. Moreover, the app’s accounts are set to public option means the strangers can have access to children’s information and data. Up until October 2016, TikTok also permitted users to find fellow TikTok-ers within a 50-mile radius.
According to a news report, TikTok stated about its settlement with FTC – “while we’ve always seen TikTok as a place for everyone, we understand the concerns that arise around younger users.” Last month, it released a new app certainly for young children. On this version, young users won’t be able to share videos, comment on any content, and messages with other users.“TikTok says its new child safety precautions represent “an ongoing commitment.”
There are a whole lot of cases of various social media platforms which are a major safety concern not only for kids but also for the elders. Last month, a news report exposed about a Facebook project in which teens were getting paid $20 a month in exchange for access to everything on the phone. Facebook had also being charged for promoting “Friendly Fraud” permitting kids to make purchases without parental consent.
These social media platforms have a large amount of data, and power which is unsafe for the users. These platforms are collecting their audiences’ information only to make profits, big projects and to attain top position in the industry instead of taking care of social responsibility.
Though TikTok might have settled its security issues for kids, but parents should let their kids know about these social media platforms’ like how these app use audiences’ data to grow their business and popularity. It would be safe to say, there is a whole lot to enjoy about the app, but use it with precautions – make your account private, approve or deny followers, restrict their uploaded content, and incoming messages.