TikTok May Face a £27m Fine for Failing to Protect Children’s Privacy

The popular social media platform TikTok may face a fine of £27 million if the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) finds that the company did not adequately protect children’s privacy while they used the platform.

Since its initial launch in 2016, TikTok has implemented several measures to improve user privacy and security, such as letting parents link their accounts to their children’s, and banning direct messaging for users under the age of 16, but they have been deemed lax in the past. The Chinese company was previously fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission for mishandling children’s data, and has been fined for similar reasons in South Korea. According to reports from BBC News, the ICO has revealed that TikTok may have breached UK data protection law between the period of May 2018 and July 2020.

Their preliminary investigation has found that the video-sharing app may have processed the data of children under 13 without parental consent, processed special-category data without legal grounds to do so, and failed to deliver accurate information to its users in an easily understood format. John Edwards, the Information Commissioner, has stated that it is his office’s provisional view that the platform has failed to meet the legal obligation of companies providing digital services.

The ICO has noted that its findings are provisional and has not yet drawn a conclusion on whether there have been any breaches of data protection law, but the office has issued TikTok Inc and TikTok Information Technologies UK Limited with a “notice of intent.” The notice, a legal document that precedes a possible fine, may potentially lead to a fine of £27 million, over JMD $4 billion. A spokesperson for TikTok has since rejected the ICO’s claims, stating,

“While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course.”

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