TikTok Is Under FTC Investigation Over Children’s Privacy Law and Other Violations, Could Face a Lawsuit, Reports Say 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating the popular social network TikTok, alleging privacy and data security violations, including children’s privacy law, as reported by Politico and Reuters. 

Allegations against TikTok

FTC is reportedly investigating TikTok and its parent company over allegedly faulty privacy and data security practices, Politico reported. The FTC, TikTok, and the DOJ did not comment on the alleged developments. 

Previous concerns over TikTok 

For several years, TikTok has been a target of allegations, with some claiming the app is giving Chinese authorities access to Americans’ personal data. Politico noted that the FTC is finishing its probe, which will be handed to the DOJ. The Justice Department will have 45 days to decide whether to file a lawsuit. 

The probe goes back to 2019 

According to Reuters, the investigation into children’s privacy issues dates back to 2019. During that year, the app, Inc., now known as TikTok, agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the FEC allegations that the company illegally collected personal information from minors.

Inside the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

According to sources, the FEC claims that TikTok has made probable violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by failing to get parents’ consent before collecting the personal information of children under 13.

ByteDance employees improperly accessed the personal data of journalists 

In 2022, TikTok’s parent company fired four workers who accessed the personal data of two journalists on the platform. The two journalists worked for the Financial Times and BuzzFeed. They were investigating potential employee leaks to the press. 

Continuation of accusations 

Also, in 2022, Forbes reported that ByteDance intended to use TikTok data to survey specific U.S. citizens. Forbes named three journalists the company had tracked, though TikTok declined to comment on whether a third journalist had been affected.

TikTok’s fate 

After 45 days, the DOJ could seek a settlement or lawsuit on the FTC’s behalf. If not, the DOJ could return the case to the FEC to litigate. Still, there are no indications of what the FTC or the DOJ could decide. 

Combination of cases 

According to Politico, the possible filing would combine a new case against TikTok under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) with allegations that the company violated the previous settlement. Politico’s sources said the filing could also rely on allegations that the company misled its users by falsely claiming that China does not have access to U.S. user data. 

Europe opened its investigation 

In February 2024, the European Commission started a formal inquiry into TikTok regarding various concerns. It aims to evaluate whether TikTok may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to the protection of minors, advertising transparency, data access for researchers, and the risk management of addictive design and harmful content.

The FTC case is unrelated to the forced-sale bill 

ByteDance, a Bejing-based parent company of TikTok, is fighting a federal bill requiring it to divest TikTok and other applications it owns within six months of its implementation. If ByteDance failed to enforce the bill, app stores could not legally offer the app. 

Lawmakers also raised concerns over data

Congress is investigating whether TikTok’s data from 170 million U.S. users could have ended up in the hands of Chinese government officials. President Biden signaled he would support the bill if it passes the Senate. 

TikTok’s defense 

The company cited Project Texas, which says all U.S. user data is stored on servers within the country where foreign governments can’t reach or influence them. The company also criticized the legislation in the House, saying it would violate First Amendment rights and destroy five million small businesses that chose TikTok to grow their jobs. 


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