TikTok was issued a fine of £12.7 million by the UK’s data watchdog for failing to protect the privacy of children while using its platform.
It was estimated that TikTok would allow up to 1.4 million children in the United Kingdom who were younger than 13 to use the platform in the year 2020.
According to the findings of an investigation conducted by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the video-sharing website used the personal information of children under the age of 13 without obtaining consent from their parents. (ICO).
TikTok stated that it had “invested heavily” in a solution to prevent users under the age of 13 from accessing the site.
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), many people were able to access the site despite TikTok setting the minimum age to create an account at 13.
It was stated that the data of children may have been used to track and profile the children and that the children may have been shown content that was harmful or inappropriate.
“There are laws in place to ensure that our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” said Information Commissioner John Edwards. TikTok did not comply with those laws in any way.
“As a direct result of this, it is estimated that one million children under the age of 13 had unauthorised access to the platform, resulting in TikTok collecting and using the personal data of these children.
TikTok ought to have been more aware of the situation. TikTok should have done better. The severe consequences that their mistakes may have caused are reflected in our fine of 12.7 million pounds.
It is one of the most significant penalties that the ICO has ever imposed.
The following is an excerpt from a statement made by a spokesperson for TikTok to the BBC: “our 40,000-strong safety team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe for our community.”
“While we disagree with the ICO’s decision, which pertains to May 2018 – July 2020, we are pleased that the fine that was announced today has been reduced to an amount that is less than half of what was proposed for it the previous year. We are going to keep analysing the decision, and right now we are thinking about what comes next.
The watchdog had previously issued TikTok with a “notice of intent,” which is the first step in the process of handing down a potential fine. At the time, the watchdog stated that TikTok could be subject to a fine of £27 million for these violations.
Prof. Sonia Livingstone, who conducts research on children’s digital rights and experiences at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told the BBC that it was “great the ICO is taking action.” However, she was concerned that the amount of the fine could be “shrugged off as the cost of doing business.”She said, “Let’s hope that TikTok thoroughly reviews its practises and makes sure that it respects children’s privacy and safety proactively in the future.”
Trouble for TikTok
TikTok is permitted to file an appeal against the amount of the fine, and the company has 28 days in which to make their case. If the initial coin offering is successful, it may bring the total cost down.
After issuing the notice of a proposed fine, the regulatory agency has a maximum of sixteen weeks before delivering its final verdict on the matter.
The Treasury is the recipient of any fines collected by the ICO.
The United Kingdom’s Online Safety Bill, which is expected to be passed in the coming months, mandates that social networks implement stringent age verification processes. This may present additional challenges for TikTok.
It has been suggested that companies will be fined for violations; however, a fine of £12.7 million is a relatively small amount when compared to the $80 billion in revenue that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is reported to have made in 2022.
And this comes at a time when the platform is already being scrutinised all over the world due to concerns about its security.
Because of concerns that the Chinese government may gain access to users’ personal information through TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese technology company Bytedance, several Western nations have taken action against the platform.
This application is not permitted to be used on any devices owned or operated by the governments of Canada, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, or the European Commission.
The CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, was questioned by members of Congress regarding the platform’s security, and he attempted to reassure them that users’ data is kept private.
The BBC has recommended that its employees remove the TikTok app from any corporate phones that they use.