The feds are investigating the popular app TikTok to determine if it failed to comply with a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy, according to a report.
TikTok has been under scrutiny, including from the national security-focused Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, largely because it is Chinese owned at a time of heightened tensions between the world’s two largest economies, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the US was “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese Communist government, a charge the company denies.
A staffer in a Massachusetts tech policy group and another source told the news service they took part in separate conference calls with Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department officials to discuss accusations that TikTok had failed to live up to an agreement announced in February 2019.
The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others in May asked the FTC to look into their allegations that TikTok failed to delete videos and personal information about users age 13 and younger as it had agreed to do, among other violations.
A spokesman for TikTok, which is widely popular with young people, said they take “safety seriously for all our users,” adding that in the US they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”
Officials from both the FTC, which reached the original consent agreement with TikTok, and Justice Department, which often files court documents for the FTC, met via video with representatives of the groups to discuss the matter, said David Monahan, a campaign manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
“I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint,” Monahan said.
The FTC declined to comment. The Justice Department had no immediate comment.
TikTok has grown increasingly popular among teenagers and allows users to create short videos.
About 60 percent of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the US are aged 16 to 24, the company said last year.
Lawmakers have also raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring that domestic companies support and cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party, according to the report.
TikTok, owned by parent company ByteDance, is one of several China-based firms that have had to navigate escalating US-China tensions over trade, technology and the COVID-19 pandemic, which President Trump has repeatedly blamed on China, where it originated.