Yesterday Bytedance, the company that acquired the tween-centric app Musica.ly and relaunched it as Tiktok, was been sued by a parents' group for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by gathering, storing, and selling private information about their children. Today, they settled the case on terms that have not been disclosed.
Bytedance/Tiktok/Musica.ly was fined $5.7m by the FTC last February for COPPA violations, and went on to obliterate its youngest users' hard work in a massive fuck-you to both the regulator and its users.
The company has been suborned by the Chinese government as a propaganda tool, and recently launched a PR campaign aimed at reassuring foreigners that they have nothing to fear from the company, which was promptly undermined by the company's global takedown of a teen's viral Tiktok video about Uyghur ethnic cleansing in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Tiktok has actually been an important tool for monitoring Chinese human rights abuses, though the Chinese state has imposed new censorship rules on the service that will make it much harder to share information about these abuses.
Yesterday, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published a deep technical analysis of Tiktok's surveillance activities, revealing that the company collects an enormous amount of information on its users, and illegally shares that information with multiple entities all over the world, in violation of Europe's General Privacy Data Regulation (GDPR).
ByteDance acquired Musical.ly in 2017, which it later rebranded as the enormously popular social video app TikTok. According to the December 3rd complaint, ByteDance has collected data from Musical.ly users under the age of 13 without their parents’ explicit consent “since at least 2014” and sold the data to third-party advertisers.
TikTok settles children’s data lawsuit one day after it was filed [Makena Kelly/The Verge]