TikTok has announced sweeping changes to the way underage accounts will be managed, to protect them from potentially inappropriate interactions with strangers.
Elaine Fox, TikTok’s Head of Privacy for the EMEA region, on Wednesday described the changes to accounts for users under the age of 18. Starting with the privacy settings for all users aged 13 to 15, which will default to private mode, thus limiting the number of users who can see and comment on their content.
Default private account
With a private account, only subscribers accepted by the user can see and interact with the content created by the account holder on the video sharing platform. Additionally, users aged 13-15 can now choose between allowing only their friends to comment on their videos – or not allowing anyone to.
The “Recommend your account to others” option will also be disabled by default for users in this age group.
“We want our young users to be able to make informed decisions about what they share and with whom they share. This implies giving them the choice to open their account to the public or not, ”explains Elaine Fox. “By introducing them from an early age to all of these privacy issues, we help them make informed decisions about what they disclose online. “
Duo and Collage features reserved for over 16s
Switching to private mode by default is not the only change affecting this age group. From now on, the “Duo” and “Collage” functions will only be available for users aged 16 and over. For users between 16 and 17 years old, the features will by default be configured only for friends.
On TikTok, the Duo feature allows you to create content based on an original video, and present these videos side by side. The Paste feature is another way to “remix” content, extracting and working with elements from an original clip.
These two features allow the to propagate more easily on the platform, and facilitate communication between users. But when minors and their privacy are at stake, app developers should be careful: they can be accused of failing to sufficiently protect the personal data and privacy of a young audience.
Better protect the privacy of young users
Among the important changes implemented by TikTok, the platform now only allows downloading of videos that were created by users 16 years and older. For creators aged 16 to 17, the download option will be disabled by default, but they can choose to allow it.
Also note, the application now restricts the use of direct messaging for young users, as well as the purchase, sending and receiving of virtual gifts. In 2020, TikTok had already launched “Family Connection”, which allows parents to remotely control their child’s account.
As the video-sharing platform has been very popular with young people and adolescents around the world in recent years, TikTok, owned by ByteDance, is currently implementing more restrictive personal data protection to better protect the privacy of children, and to comply with national laws on the subject.
“We are well aware that the protection of users and their privacy is a constant struggle, and our investment in this important area will not stop there”, defends Elaine Fox. “We will continue tomorrow to develop our rules, to work in close collaboration with the competent authorities and experts in the protection of minors, and to invest in our technologies and our teams so that TikTok remains a space where everyone can express their creativity by completely safe. “