Members of Congress Send Letter to FTC over TikTok’s COPPA Violations

On May 28, 14 members of Congress sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), supporting demands for the agency to investigate social media app TikTok’s compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Addressed to FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons, it was written in response to Children’s Privacy Coalition’s May 14 complaint and request for an investigation.

According to the letter, social distancing over the last two months has caused Americans to spend significantly more time online, with Internet usage increasing between 50-70%. Popular video-sharing app TikTok has also “seen a surge in use, with downloads increasing 27% in the first 23 days of March alone, and the app surpassing two billion downloads at the end of April.” Many of its users are children, who cannot be properly supervised now that their parents work from home. The lawmakers write, “As children are spending more time online, busy parents deserve the reassurance that the federal government is diligently working to protect the online safety of their family members.”

In its complaint, Children’s Privacy Coalition presents evidence revealing that TikTok violated COPPA and the consent decree reached in United States v., which obligated it to “destroy all personal information on users younger than 13,…obtain parental consent before collecting such data, and provide parents with the right to delete this information on their children.” COPPA similarly prohibits websites from collecting personal information from minors under the age of 13 without their parents’ consent. Part of the Coalition’s evidence includes TikTok’s alleged failure to destroy information from users under 13 and unsatisfactory privacy policy, among other things.

The 14 members implore the FTC to review the Coalition’s complaint, saying, “There are inherent dangers whenever children are online, but as long TikTok is out of compliance with COPPA and the consent decree, young children are at heightened risk.

TikTok has also received attention lately from the Energy & Commerce Committee.