The popular social media app TikTok is once again under intense scrutiny after a coalition of some twenty children's advocacy groups claimed that the app was flouting an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. The complaints against the app include continued violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.
In early 2019, ByteDance, the Chinese tech company that owns TikTok, reached a settlement with the FTC over COPPA violations. One of the chief concerns that prompted the FTC's intervention was the lack of parental verification for the app's many users that were under 13 years of age, with other concerns being raised over user information being made publicly available by default. ByteDance was required to pay a $5.7 million fine as part of its settlement.
On Thursday, a coalition of advocacy groups filed a complaint with the FTC alleging that the popular video-sharing platform was disregarding the terms of its settlement. The complaint alleges that the app never deleted personal data that was previously found in violation of COPPA, and that the app was still collecting personal data from minors without parental consent. The complaint noted additional concerns over the spike in new users to the app as many seek to entertain themselves amid the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent worldwide social distancing movement.
"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," said Michael Rosenbloom of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law. Rosenbloom is representing the coalition legally.
TikTok is no stranger to controversy. Leading up to and following after the 2019 FTC investigation and resulting penalty, the app has come under fire from lawmakers on capitol hill for its data harvesting practices. Earlier this year, the app garnered further concern when cybersecurity firm Check Point