FTC Investigates TikTok Over Security, Privacy – Report

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reportedly added to the woes facing TikTok’s owner ByteDance in the United States.

Last week CNN, citing two sources, reported that the FTC is investigating the popular Chinese social media app for its data and security practices.

ByetDance is already facing down the barrel of a potential US nationwide ban, after the US House of Representatives in March overwhelmingly passed a bill that will give ByteDance approximately six months to divest itself of its US assets or face a nationwide ban.

TikTok owner ByteDance. Image credit: ByteDance

US ban

That vote is the greatest threat to the TikTok in the United States since the Trump administration, and came despite ByteDance’s campaign to the 170 million US users, urging them to contact their members of Congress.

The nationwide ban vote however still has to gain US Senate approval, but key US senators have already voiced their support for the bill, who view the app as incompatible with the Constitution.

The bill, if fully approved, would give ByteDance a deadline of 165 days (six months) to divest itself of TikTok.

If it does not, app stores including the Apple App store and Google Play would be legally barred from hosting TikTok or providing web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications.

That said, TikTok users in the US could potentially bypass a ban by using a VPN.

FTC investigation

Now CNN has reported that the FTC is investigating TikTok.

The two sources told CNN that the FTC is probing TikTok over an alleged violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection rule, which requires companies to notify parents and obtain consent before collecting data from children under 13.

The agency is also reportedly investigating whether TikTok violated a portion of the FTC Act that prohibits “unfair or deceptive” business practices, the sources said, in denying that TikTok user data could be accessed by individuals in China.

CNN reported that the FTC could bring a suit against TikTok or settle with the company in the coming weeks, according to one of the sources.

When asked about the investigation, FTC Director of Public Affairs Douglas Farrar reportedly replied: “No comment.”

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last September the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) ruled that TikTok had breached GDPR child privacy laws between 31 July 2020 and 31 December 2020, and therefore fined the firm 345 million euros (£297 million).

Prior to that in April 2023 the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined TikTok £12.7 million for failing to protect the privacy of children aged under 13.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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