Senator Hawley, Colleagues Call for Investigation into TikTok’s Children’s Privacy Practices

Friday, May 29, 2020

Today U.S. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agency to investigate new evidence that the popular video social media platform TikTok has violated the privacy of its young users and failed to abide by the terms of a 2019 settlement with the FTC.

Last year, the FTC placed TikTok under a consent decree after finding that the company had repeatedly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). That settlement required the app to take several steps to improve their privacy practices. However, new research findings from leading children’s privacy experts suggest that TikTok failed to delete all information collected about users under age 13, failed to follow multiple legally binding transparency requirements, and failed to give parents the option to review and delete their children’s data from the platform.

“Federal privacy laws, regulations promulgated under those laws, and consent decrees resulting from privacy violations are effective only if they are vigorously enforced,” write the Senators in their letter to the FTC Chairman and Commissioners.

“As the ongoing public health crisis continues to catalyze children’s increased tech use, the FTC must increase its attention to the dangers that minors encounter online, including the manipulation of kids’ attention and their data for advertising dollars.”

Senator Hawley recently joined a bipartisan letter to the FTC, urging it to use its authority under the FTC Act to launch an investigation into children’s data practices in the educational technology and digital advertising sectors.

Senator Hawley has also raised other concerns with TikTok. He has introduced legislation to prohibit TikTok from sending data on children, or anyone else, to China and legislation to ban TikTok from all government devices.

A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found here.