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When it Rains, it Pours — TikTok Now Faces an FTC Investigation Amid Senators Debating a Ban

TikTok FTC investigation

Photo Credit: faungg / CC by 2.0

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating TikTok over allegedly faulty data and privacy practices. In Congress, Senators debate a ban on the ByteDance-owned company.

The FTC is investigating allegations that TikTok and its Beijing-based parent ByteDance “deceived its users by denying that individuals in China had access to their data,” as well as violating a children’s privacy law, people with direct knowledge of the matter told Politico. In partnership with the Justice Department, the agency could either file a lawsuit or settle with the company, though a settlement is reportedly yet to be reached.

TikTok is battling from multiple sides as a recent bill that would either force the sale of the company in the US or ban the platform entirely makes its way through the Senate after finding overwhelming support in the House of Representatives. A settlement with the FTC would only add fuel to the fire for those arguing that TikTok’s ties to a Beijing-based company are a significant threat to national security.

The FTC and DOJ are in ongoing discussions over what action should be taken, and must first refer the matter to the DOJ’s civil division before bringing a case. After referring the case to the DOJ, the department has 45 days to decide whether to pursue either a settlement or a lawsuit, or send it back to the agency for litigation. It’s unclear whether any action taken against TikTok would include parent company ByteDance.

According to those close to the situation, TikTok has been under scrutiny at the FTC for its privacy and data security practices for at least two years. In 2019, a previous iteration of the platform settled a case with the FTC alleging violations of a children’s privacy law.

The European Commission also opened a probe in February into whether TikTok breached the EU’s new online privacy rules, while a group of state attorneys general have launched their own probe of the company. Meanwhile, several Canadian privacy regulators launched their own TikTok security investigation, also in February.

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