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MIT Technology Review

TikTok is being investigated over its use of children’s data (again)

TikTokTikTok

The company received the biggest fine ever for a case involving children’s privacy in the US in February.

The news: The UK’s data privacy regulator is investigating how video-sharing app TikTok handles children’s personal data, and whether it’s doing enough to keep children safe on its platform. Specifically, it is looking into whether TikTok is breaking European data protection laws, information commissioner Elizabeth Denham told a parliamentary committee, the Guardian reports. There are also concerns over the fact that TikTok’s open messaging system lets any adult communicate with any child. TikTok is the fastest-growing social-media platform, with about 500 million monthly active users.

March of the regulators: Back in February the company was fined $5.7 million by the US Federal Trade Commission for illegally collecting kids’ personal information. Specifically, TikTok had failed to seek parental consent before collecting personal information from users under the age of 13.

Live-stream gifting: TikTok lets users send video stars “digital gifts” worth up to $62 during live streams, a practice that is common in TikTok’s native China but less so in the West. A BBC investigation has revealed that some TikTok users (including children) are spending hundreds of dollars sending money to their favorite stars this way.

Age of consent: Thirteen is the internet’s de facto “age of adulthood” thanks to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US, passed in 1998. But some child development experts (not to mention a few parents) think that legislation is out of date, and online age limits need to be reexamined.

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