Tag Archives: federal trade commission

Musical.ly Fined $5.7 Million for Collecting Personal Information from Children



The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that the operators of the video social networking app Musical.ly (now known as TikTok) have agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle FTC allegations that the company illegally collected personal information form children. This is the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the FTC in a children’s privacy case.

The FTC’s complaint (which filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC), alleged that Musical.ly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires that websites and online services directed to children obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.

User accounts were public by default, which means a child’s profile bio, username, picture and videos could be seen by other users. Changing the setting to private did not make the profile private. Users could still send direct messages to private Musical.ly accounts.The complaint noted that there had been public reports of adults trying to contact users via the Musical.ly app.

The FTC complaint said that operators of the Musical.ly app were aware that a significant percentage of users were younger than 13 and received thousands of complaints from parents that their children under 13 had created Musical.ly accounts.

TikTok posted information on its newsroom about how they will work with the FTC in conjunction with the agreement. TikTok will split users into age-appropriate TikTok environments, in line with FTC guidance for mixed audience apps. The environment for younger users will not permit the sharing of personal information. It also places limits on content and user interactions.

There are two things can be learned from this situation. One is that companies that have apps or websites that collect user’s personal information really need to take steps to ensure that the data from children is kept private. Failing to do so could result in a huge fine.

The other lesson is that parents should not assume that an app will protect their child’s data – or keep their child’s profile private. Take the time to see what the app collects, and how protective their privacy settings are before allowing your child to use it.


FTC Announced Creation of Technology Task Force



The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition announced the creation of a Technology Task Force. It is dedicated to monitoring competition in the U.S. technology markets, investigating any potential anticompetitive conduct in those markets, and taking enforcement actions when warranted.

The creation of this task force is modeled on the FTC’s Merger Litigation Task Force which reinvigorated the Bureau of Competition’s hospital merger review program, and also sharpened the agency’s focus on merger enforcement in retail industries, particularly regarding matters involving food, beverages, and supermarkets.

“The role of technology in the economy and in our lives grows more important every day,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “As I’ve noted in the past, it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition.”

The Technology Task Force will have about 17 staff attorneys. It will include attorneys with unique expertise in complex product and service markets and ecosystems, including markets for online advertising, social networking, mobile operating systems and apps, and platform businesses.

“Technology markets, which are rapidly evolving and touch so many other sectors of the economy, raise distinct challenges for antitrust enforcement,” said Bureau Director Bruce Hoffman. “By centralizing our expertise and attention, the new task force will be able to focus on these markets exclusively – ensuring they are operating pursuant to the antitrust laws, and taking action where they are not.”

Personally, I think the existence of the Technology Task Force should worry companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Each one will have to consider antitrust laws before gobbling up smaller companies. I wonder if the Technology Task Force will look at the companies who make video games, who buy up smaller competitors, and then do massive layoffs a little while later.

I’m hoping that the consumer protection aspect of the Technology Task Force will put in place restrictions on how social media companies can use people’s data – especially in situations where that data is being used to make money for those companies. It will be interesting to see what, exactly, the Technology Task Force does.


FTC Kicks Off Operation Spam Zombies



The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 35 government partners from more than 20 countries are targeting illegal spammers who take remote control of unwitting users’ computers to serve as spam transmission zombies. By hijacking home and business computers, spam can be routed through them, thereby hiding the true source of the spam and making the enforcement of antispam laws more difficult.

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