#AbreuForward - Global Legal Trends
Tik Tok: is it safe for children?
TikTok is a social network owned by a Chinese company, founded in 2012. It is used to create short lip-sync, talent and other types of videos. Approximately half of its users are between ages of 16 and 24. It was the 7th most downloaded app of the decade and is now growingly used by brands for online advertising. However, several concerns have arisen from different entities as to the insufficiency of security features implemented to avoid risks resulting from detected security flaws, as well as the dangers for children in respect of inappropriate or abusive content or contacts from potentially malicious users.
TikTok has been criticized for cybersecurity and privacy shortcomings. Investigations have emerged in both the US and the EU. The US FTC started an investigation linked to security flaws discovered within the app and related concerns of collaboration with Chinese intelligence agencies due to the possibility that US Army members using the app would reveal sensitive data such as location of military units. However, no evidence of exploitation of vulnerabilities was found and these having been rapidly fixed. In the EU, both the UK and Italian Data Protection Authorities focused on the processing of personal data of minors. The latter DPA inclusively suggested coordinated action within the European Data Protection Board and the creation of a task force aimed at prevention of risks to children’s data. Parents also expressed concern about the risks the use of the network may represent, such as inappropriate content, as well as potential contacts from strangers with malicious intentions. The way the accounts are set up (public by default) and type of data that can be collected (e.g.: location-related data and other sensitive personal information) increases the risk of ill-intended persons directly contacting children on the app, leading to risky situations. The widespread use of the app by minors reignites the discussions on adequate mechanisms to verify a user’s age and consent from parents. TikTok recently decided to include new features, including a new Family Safety Mode to help parents manage screen time, turn on a restricted mode and set restrictions on comments. The discussions around this topic may have a significant impacts on all similar apps.
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