TikTok is hit with fine in UK for misusing data of minors

TikTok is hit with fine in UK for misusing data of minors

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Britain’s data protection authority Tuesday hit the beleaguered Chinese social media company TikTok with a $15.9 million (£12.7m), accusing the app of breaching data protection rules.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO, said TikTok had allowed in the region of 1.4 million children under the age of 13 to use the app. The firm was said to have used the data without the parents of the children giving their consent, even after some older employees had raised concerns about young people using the app.

“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” said John Edwards, U.K. Information Commissioner. “TikTok did not abide by those laws. As a consequence, an estimated one million under-13s were inappropriately granted access to the platform, with TikTok collecting and using their personal data.”

The regulator explained that this data was used to track the children and create profiles of them, but as they were underage, there was always a risk that the algorithm would have delivered content that was potentially dangerous or at least inappropriate. The fine may seem like a hefty one, but TikTok seems to have gotten off lucky given that the notice of intent mentioned a number of £27 million ($33.7m). It seems the ICO didn’t bother following through on one of the charges, which is the reason for the reduction.

TikTok said in a statement to the media that it didn’t agree with the fine but was “pleased” that it avoided the original fine. “We invest heavily to help keep under-13s off the platform, and our 40,000-strong safety team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe for our community,” the firm said.

TikTok should have known better. In 2019, the company was slapped with a $5.7 million fine by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Again, the accusation was improper data collection from kids under 13. At the time, TikTok said it would focus on keeping children in “age-appropriate TikTok environments.”

Fines aside, TikTok has been fighting for its life in the U.S., the U.K, and elsewhere, called a threat to national security as a spying platform for the Chinese government. While there’s been little to no proof that’s true, what seems like a witch hunt has certainly been gathering momentum.

Photo: Solen Feyissa/Unsplash

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