TikTok is again swimming in mucky waters and is facing a potential EU fine over breaching children’s privacy. The Chinese-owned app could be fined millions of dollars by the European data protection regulator.
The European Data Protection Board said a binding decision has been reached on TikTok over processing of children’s data.
According to The Guardian, the regulator “adopted a dispute resolution decision” after the ByteDance-owned app submitted legal objections to an earlier ruling in Ireland. The fine is expected to be issued within the next four weeks.
The European Union’s decision comes on the heels of an investigation, opened in 2021, by the data protection commissioner in Ireland into TikTok’s level of compliance with its general data protection regulation and how it handles the data of children between the ages of 13 and 17.
In April, the UK’s data watchdog fined TikTok $15.8 million for failing to protect the privacy of children. In an investigation carried out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), TikTok used the data of children of this age without parental consent.
The investigation revealed that the Chinese app allowed up to 1.4 million UK children under the age of 13 to make use of its platform in 2020.
According to the ICO, many children were able to access the site despite TikTok setting 13 as the minimum age to create an account. This, of course, exposed them to vulnerabilities and inappropriate content.
Information commissioner John Edwards said, per the BBC: “There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. 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 “TikTok should have known better. TikTok should have done better. Our £12.7m fine reflects the serious impact their failures may have had.”
The commissioner later told the BBC that TikTok had “taken no steps” to obtain parental consent.
“When you sign up you can be targeted for advertising, you can be profiled, your data contributes to an algorithm which feeds content,” he said.
“If you’ve been looking at content which is not appropriate for your age, that can get more and more extreme.
“It can be quite harmful for people who are not old enough to fully appreciate the implications and to make appropriate choices.”