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FTC Complaint Filed Against TikTok

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Center for Digital Democracy are among a coalition of 20 groups that have filed a complaint at the Federal Trade Commission against TikTok, saying it is not adhering to its February 2019 settlement with the FTC. 

The video social networking app TikTok (formerly Musical.ly) agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the FTC allegation that it had illegally collected personal info from kids. In addition to the settlement, TikTok "agreed to change their practices to ensure COPPA compliance," the FTC said at the time

Related: FCC Exacts Record Settlement

It was the largest civil penalty ever levied over an alleged children's privacy violation.

The groups said that the maker of the Chinese-backed short-form app has not deleted previously collected data from children and is still collecting personal info without the consent of their parents. 

"We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users," the company said in a statement. 

Related: Bill Would Ban TikTok from Government Devices 

The complaint alleges that the company continues to violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and makes it easy for kids to avoid having to obtain their parent's consent.  

The groups, which are represented by the Communications & Technology Law Clinic at the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law, want the maximum monetary penalty levied against the company, given what they said were its vast financial resources and the severity of the alleged violations.

"For years, TikTok has ignored COPPA, thereby ensnaring perhaps millions of underage children in its marketing apparatus, and putting children at risk of sexual predation," said Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood executive director Josh Golin. 

“Congress empowered the FTC to ensure that kids have online protections, yet here is another case of a digital giant deliberately violating the law," said Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeff Chester. 

Other groups signing on to the complaint included Berkeley Media Studies Group, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Media Education Foundation, Obligation Inc., Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Parents Across America, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Public Citizen, United Church of Christ, and USPIRG.