TikTok could be fined $29 million by the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office. The fine could come following the outcome of an investigation on allegation that TikTok breached child data laws for a two-year period.
The alleged bridge, according to TechCrunch, occurred between May 2018 and July 2020. The ICO noted that TikTok “may have” processed data of children under the age of 13 without parental consent. The commission also added that TikTok may have “failed to provide proper information to its users in a concise, transparent and easily understood way” and “processed special category data, without legal grounds to do so.”
The U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office had initiated an investigation into how TikTok collects private data in 2019. The investigation’s main focus was to unravel whether the Chinese-owned app constitute a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that requires companies to put in place effective measures to protect underage users. It also tried to investigate how TikTok allows children to interact with adults.
ICO’s announcement may not be the final though, it however, serves as a clear indication that enough information may have been unraveled to attract a hefty fine.
What is next?
The ICO has issued TikTok a “notice if intent,” and also given the Chinese-owned app a right to respond. The notice issued to TikTok is a legal document that includes the findings of the ICO, which is the first step to taking a final decision.
“This Notice of Intent, covering the period May 2018 to July 2020, is provisional and as the ICO itself has stated, no final conclusions can be drawn at this time,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement issued to TechCrunch. “While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the U.K., we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course.”
The ICO, however, emphasized the fact that “no conclusion should be drawn at this stage” in terms of whether or not a breach of data protect law has been made, or that any fine has or will be imposed.
“We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections,” Information Commissioner John Edwards said in an official statement. “Companies providing digital services have a legal duty to put those protections in place, but our provisional view is that TikTok fell short of meeting that requirement.”