TikTok rolls out stricter children's privacy rules

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

The new policy update is in response to ongoing privacy challenges

TikTok on Wednesday updated its privacy policy with stricter rules for users under the age of 18. 

Under the new policy, default settings for users between the ages of 13 to 15 will be set to private. Only approved followers will be able to view the user’s content. 

TikTok will also stop allowing all users to comment on videos created by users younger than  15 years-old, restricting the ability to minors’ friends. Users under 15 can opt to turn off commenting altogether. 

TikTok has also turned off the ability to suggest minors accounts to other users by default.

Users ages 16 to 17 are allowed slightly more access to enhanced features under the new policy, including TikTok’s “Duet” and “Stitch” features, which will only be visible to friends, as well as direct messages and live streams. 

TikTok users who are older than 16 can decide whether they want to allow video downloads, and will have access to the direct messages and live streams. 

Users under 18 can no longer buy, send or receive virtual gifts through the platform. 

The policy updates come as TikTok faces ongoing backlash for inadequately protecting children’s user data,  most recently in the form of a legal challenge from a 12-year-old girl in the U.K. 

Prior to that, the app, which has a considerably young user base, was fined $5.7 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for violating children’s data privacy laws. 

Since then, TikTok has launched a limited app experience for users under the age of 13 called “TikTok for Younger Users” with tighter security measures. 

The platform also partnered with Common Sense Networks, a media company that creates age-appropriate and privacy-safe experiences for minors. 

When asked how TikTok would mitigate users who lie about their age to access enhanced features, a spokesperson for the company said: “If a user enters a birthday that confirms they're under 13, they will be entered into the TikTok for Younger Users experience. If we learn that a user under 13 is not in the TikTok for Younger Users experience, we will delete their account.” 

TikTok has also adopted a 12+ rating on Apple and Google’s app stores, which enable parental controls that block or limit apps for young children. 

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