Two US federal government agencies are investigating whether Tiktok, a Chinese short video app popular with American teens, breached a 2019 deal designed to protect children’s privacy.

Why it matters: The probe is Tiktok’s latest setback in overseas markets following a ban on the app in India last month and its retreat from Hong Kong this week.

Details: The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice are investigating whether Tiktok complied with an agreement it reached with the FTC in January 2019, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing David Monahan, a campaign manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

  • Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, and other advocacy groups in May complained to the FTC that Tiktok failed to live up to the agreement that it would remove videos and personal information about users under the age of 13, said the report.
  • “I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint,” the report cited Monahan as saying.
  • Tiktok told Reuters that the app takes “safety seriously for all our users” and that it 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.”

Context: Pressure on Tiktok is mounting in the US after it was shut out of India, which used to be its biggest overseas market.

  • In an interview on Fox News on Monday, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to agree with anchor Laura Ingraham’s suggestion that the US should ban Chinese social media apps, especially Tiktok.
  • In October, two US senators requested American intelligence officials investigate Tiktok for potential national security threats.
  • In May, a Dutch privacy regulator said it would investigate how short video app Tiktok handles data collected from minors on the platform.

Wei Sheng

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.