FTC Says 'Reason To Believe' TikTok Violates Children's Privacy Law

The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that it has “reason to believe” that TikTok is violating or “about to violate” the federal children's privacy law and the FTC Act, and has referred a case against the company to the Department of Justice.

“Although the Commission does not typically make public the fact that it has referred a complaint, we have determined that doing so here is in the public interest,” the agency stated.

Chair Lina Khan added in a post on X that the FTC “will continue to use all its tools to enforce the law without fear or favor and protect the American public from corporate lawbreaking.”

The FTC hasn't yet publicly revealed specifics of the alleged violations.



In 2019, the company agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle an FTC complaint alleging violations of the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits web companies from knowingly collecting personal information form children under 13, without parental consent. The following year, advocacy groups including Fairplay and the Center for Digital Democracy accused TikTok of continuing to violate the children's privacy law.

The FTC said Tuesday that its referral to the Justice Department stems from a compliance review of the 2019 settlement -- as well as an investigation into additional violations of the children's privacy law and the FTC Act.

A TikTok spokesperson said the company “strongly” disagrees with the FTC's allegations, adding that many “relate to past events and practices that are factually inaccurate or have been addressed.”

"We've been working with the FTC for more than a year to address its concerns,” the spokesperson said. “We're disappointed the agency is pursuing litigation instead of continuing to work with us on a reasonable solution.”

He added that TikTok offers “an age-appropriate experience with stringent safeguards,” removes suspected underage users, and implemented “safety features such as default screen time limits, family pairing, and privacy by default for minors under 16."

The FTC's referral to the Justice Department comes as TikTok is suing to block a new law that will ban the app nationwide unless it's sold by China-based parent company ByteDance.

Lawmakers who supported that bill expressed concerns that the Chinese government would be able to obtain data from TikTok about Americans, and that Chinese Communist Party would use the app to spread propaganda. Some lawmakers also suggested that information received through classified briefings justified the ban.

TikTok argues that the law violates the company's free speech rights, as well as the rights of its users, and that Congress passed the measure based on speculative concerns.

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