TikTok fined $15.9m for misusing children’s data in Britain
Britain’s data protection authority on Tuesday fined popular video-sharing app TikTok $15.9 million, saying the platform had breached data protection rules designed to protect kids online.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said TikTok improperly allowed up to 1.4 million children under the age of 13 to use the service in 2020, breaching UK data protection rules which require the parental consent for organizations to use children’s personal information. TikTok did not obtain that consent, regulators said, even though it should have known younger children were using the service.
The UK investigation found the video-sharing app was not doing enough to identify underage users or remove them from the platform, even though TikTok had rules prohibiting children under 13 from creating accounts. TikTok failed to take adequate action, regulators said, even after some senior employees at the video-sharing platform raised concerns internally about underage children using the app.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, has also come under scrutiny in the United States. Last month, members of Congress questioned its chief executive, Shou Chew, about possible national security risks posed by the platform.
TikTok’s privacy fine underscores growing public concerns about the mental health and safety risks that popular social networks may pose for some children and teens. Last year, researchers reported that TikTok began recommending content related to eating disorders and self-harm to 13-year-old users within 30 minutes of joining the platform.
In a statement, John Edwards, Britain’s Information Commissioner, said TikTok’s practices could have put children at risk.
“An estimated one million under-13s have received inappropriate access to the platform, with TikTok collecting and using their personal data,” Edwards said in the statement. “This means their data may have been used to track and profile them, potentially delivering harmful and inappropriate content the next time they scroll.”
In a statement, TikTok said it disagreed with regulators’ findings and was reviewing the matter and considering next steps.
“TikTok is a platform for users ages 13 and older,” the company said in the statement. “We are investing heavily to help keep under 13s off the platform, and our 40,000 person security team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe for our community.”
It’s not the first time regulators have cited the popular video-sharing appabout children’s privacy issues. In 2019, Musical.ly, the operator of the platform now known as TikTok, agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission for violating privacy protection rules. online privacy of children in the United States.
Since then, lawmakers in the United States and Europe have introduced new rules to try to strengthen the protection of children online.
In March, Utah passed a sweeping law that would ban social media platformslike TikTok and Instagramto allow minors in the state to have accounts without parental consent. Last fall, California passed a law that would force many social media, video games, and other apps to turn on the highest privacy settings — and turn off potentially risky features like friend finder that allow adult strangers to contact children – default for minors.
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