TikTok Draws FTC, DOJ Scrutiny Over Privacy, Group Says

TikTok, the short-video app owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd., is the subject of an inquiry by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department over its data practices, according to a children’s privacy advocate who says he was interviewed by the agencies.

The enforcers asked Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, about allegations that his group and others filed with the FTC, Golin said.

Several privacy groups alleged in May that the app, which is popular with teens, was collecting information about children under 13 without parental permission, in violation of both U.S. privacy law and an earlier FTC settlement.

“We felt both FTC and DOJ were taking our allegations seriously,” Golin said.

A TikTok spokesperson said that the company “takes the issue of safety seriously for all our users, and we continue to further strengthen our safeguards and introduce new measures to protect young people on the app.” The spokesperson also cited initiatives to teach kids online safety, allow parents greater control and place some restrictions on users under 13.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s conversations with the agencies were previously reported by Reuters.

The Justice Department did not immediately return requests for comment after business hours. The FTC declined to comment.

TikTok has faced pressure over Chinese ownership and data policies from the Trump administration and Capitol Hill, and it has revamped its Washington presence in response. President Donald Trump said earlier on Tuesday that his administration is considering banning TikTok to retaliate against China over its handling of the coronavirus.

A prior iteration of the app paid $5.7 million in 2019 to settle claims by the FTC that it illegally collected personal information from children.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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