The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) began to investigate claims that Chinese social media app, TikTok, has breached a 2019 agreement designed to protect children’s privacy on Tuesday.
In May, twenty advocacy groups led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the FTC to ask them to investigate TikTok’s alleged violations of the 2019 agreement and COPPA. Specifically, TikTok allegedly failed to delete videos and personal information from users 13 years and younger, despite agreeing to delete this content and information; it has also allegedly failed to notify parents about its data collection.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “[w]e are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it.” Secretary Pompeo further suggested that using TikTok is putting your private information “in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party” because of concerns that the app has shared user information with the Chinese government, although TikTok denies this claim.
A spokesperson for TikTok stated that the social media company takes “safety seriously for all our users.” The spokesperson added that in the U.S. they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”
David Monahan, a campaign manager for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood stated that the FTC and DOJ met with representatives of the advocacy groups to discuss the matter of the advocates’ FTC complaint. Monahan said, “I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint.”
TikTok has faced its fair share of privacy concerns in the recent months. For example, Congress sent a letter to the FTC over TikTok’s alleged Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) violations, representatives sent a letter to TikTok voicing their concerns, TikTok was sued for biometrics violations. American lawmakers are concerned about American user data and national security because Chinese law requires Chinese companies to support and cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party.