TikTok Strengthens Privacy Features for Under-18 Users

Privacy regulations for TikTok users under 18 are about to get a long-overdue overhaul. The move to tighten security and privacy features came after federal regulators ordered the video-sharing social media platform to disclose key information about how it collects the user data of minors. Other platforms that came under scrutiny for the way they collect data were Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and five other social media companies.

Under these new regulations, TikTok users who are between 13 and 15 years will have their default account settings set to private. This allows only approved followers to consume their content. However, a teen will still be able to change this setting to public. Account-holders who are 16 or 17 will have the download setting on the videos they create set off, not on.

TikTok’s privacy settings for minors are rooted in the history of the social media platform. In 2019, a little after it merged with TikTok, parent company Musica.ly paid a civil penalty of $5.7 million in response to Federal Trade Commission allegations that it collected personal information from its underage users. Since then, a special feature called TikTok for younger users offers pre-selected age-appropriate content for consumption. Another tool on the TikTok privacy kit is the “family pairing” feature which allows parents to link their TikTok accounts to their child’s. This allows the parent to oversee consumption, enable content and regulate privacy settings in their child account. Though the changes in privacy settings may come as a relief for concerned parents, there are still some security gaps. For instance, while TikTok users are required to provide their birthday when they create an account, there is still no verification of the data.