Lazy eyes listen
TikTok was fined £12.7 million ($15.9 million) by the UK’s data protection watchdog for failing to remove users under the age of 13 and using their data without parental consent. The decision comes as Western governments tighten their grip on the wildly popular Chinese video app.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said in a statement on Tuesday that more than a million British children under the age of 13 used TikTok in 2020, in violation of the app’s terms of service. According to the watchdog, TikTok “did not do enough” to remove these underage users, and the company used their data without parental consent.
“That means their data could have been used to track and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their next scroll,” said UK Information Commissioner John Edwards in a press release.
TIkTok insisted on investing “heavily to keep under 13s off the platform,” emphasising that its 40,000-strong safety team monitors accounts for signs of underage use.
Similar sanctions have previously been imposed on the platform. In 2019, the US Federal Trade Commission determined that the app, then known as Musical.ly, violated US privacy law by allowing children under the age of 13 to sign up without parental consent. The FTC and Musical.ly reached a $5.7 million settlement.
In the EU, most violations of the bloc’s privacy laws are typically investigated by Ireland, as the majority of the largest multinational tech firms have their EU headquarters in Dublin. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission proposed an undisclosed “preliminary range of fines” on TikTok last November after opening a similar investigation into the company’s handling of underage user data in 2021, according to Irish media.
Aside from these investigations, TikTok has been accused by multiple Western governments of sharing user data with the Chinese government, a charge that both the company and the Chinese government deny. Nonetheless, TikTok has been banned from government-issued devices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, as well as in more than a dozen other countries.
TikTok claimed that the bans were imposed “without any thought or evidence” and were based on “basic misinformation.”