(Yicai Global) March. 1 -- TikTok, the international version of Chinese app Douyin owned by Beijing ByteDance Technology, has agreed to pay a USD5.7 million fine to settle allegations it illegally collected the names, email addresses and other personal information of users under 13 without their parents' consent.
Such actions violate the US' Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, the country's Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday, Chinese state news outlet The Paper reported today.
The FTC investigation began as early as 2016 on the short music video app Musical.ly, which ByteDance acquired in November 2017 and merged with TikTok in August last year under the latter's name.
Musical.ly required users to provide email addresses, phone numbers, names and other information when registering, according to the FTC. The app has mandated age information since July 2017, however, with those under 13 not allowed to open an account.
Musical.ly's information is left open by default, which means users can still see the profiles of children under 13 who registered before July 2017. Many parents have sought to cancel children's accounts on the service, which has received a barrage of complaints.
Even if Musical.ly does shut down accounts, personal information is still saved on its server, however.
The FTC investigation and fine were based on the practices of Musical.ly before the acquisition, Li Liang, vice president of ByteDance, said yesterday.
TikTok will promote its business in the US after clearing away the skeletons in Musical.ly's closet and settling with the FTC, a company spokesperson told state media The Paper.
Such investigations are common in the US, with almost all internet giants having come under the lens.
The FTC conducted a 19-month investigation into Google in 2012, which ended in a settlement, while the photo-sharing Snapchat app also became the focus of a probe over compliance issues in 2014.
Editor: Ben Armour