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UK’s data privacy watchdog slaps fine of 12.7 million pound on Tiktok for allowing kids on the platform and misusing their data

UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said that, in violation of TikTok's terms of service, over 1.4 million British children under the age of 13 used the app in 2020

Tiktok has been penalised by the UK’s privacy watchdog with a fine of 12.7 million pounds ($15.9 million) for failing to block users under the age of 13 and exploiting their data without their parent’s permission. The decision comes as several Western governments have started to impose strict regulations on the enormously popular Chinese app.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that, in violation of TikTok’s terms of service, over 1.4 million British children under the age of 13 used the app in 2020. The ICO said many were able to access the site despite TikTok setting 13 as the minimum age to create an account. According to the watchdog, TIkTOk “did not do enough” to delete these minor users, and the company utilised their data without getting permission from their parents.

The ICO said the data breaches occurred between May 2018 and July 2020, as the company didn’t do enough to check who was using the platform and remove the underage children from it.

Information UK Commissioner John Edwards said, “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 using their personal data.”

John Edwards further said, “it means that their data may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially presenting dangerous, inappropriate content at their very next scroll.”

“TikTok should have known better. TikTok should have done better. Our £12.7m fine reflects the serious impact their failures may have had,” he added.

TikTok claimed that its 40,000-strong safety team analyses accounts for evidence of underage use and that it invests “heavily to keep under 13s off the site.”

The regulator had initially proposed a fine of £27 million, but it was reduced to £12.7 million. In the ‘notice of intent’ previously issued to TikTok, ICO had said that the potential fine could be £27 million.

Similar penalties have already been imposed on the platform. The app, which was then known as Musical.ly was found to have broken US privacy laws in 2019 by allowing children under 13 to sign up without parental permission. A settlement for $5.7 million was reached between the FTC and Musical.ly.

Since the majority of the largest international tech companies have their EU Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland typically conducts investigations into violations of the EU’s privacy regulations

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission opened a similar inquiry into TikTok’s handling of user data from minors in 2021, according to Irish media, and last November proposed an unnamed “preliminary range of fines” on the company.

In addition to these probes, TikTok has been charged with sharing user data with the Chinese government by numerous Western governments, an accusation both the company and Beijing have refuted. Nonetheless, TikTok has been prohibited from being used on government-issued devices in more than a dozen nations, including the major institutions of the US, UK and EU

According to TikTok, the prohibitions were put in place “without thought or justification” and on the basis of “basic misinformation”.

Other countries which have gone tough on TikTok

New Zealand

In a move to strengthen security protocols, New Zealand’s Parliament has officially decided to ban the use of TikTok on all the devices linked to Parliament or its MPs The decision was made due to concerns over potential security risks posed by the Chinese social media platform. This comes a day after the UK banned TikTok on government-issued phones.

TikTok will be banned on all devices with access to New Zealand’s parliamentary network by the end of March, said Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero. The announcement comes after a review of security procedures was conducted by the Parliamentary Service. It was found that TikTok’s data collection and privacy policies could potentially compromise sensitive information that is shared and stored on Parliament’s devices

France

France became the most recent country to join the list of countries that have outlawed the Chinese short video app TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese technology company Bytedance, on phones of govt officials over security issues.

India

The government of India permanently banned 59 Chinese apps, including ByteDance’s short video app TikTok, WeChat, Baidu, Alibaba’s UC Browser, Club Factory, BIGO Live and others in 2020. The apps were banned for their failure to comply with the user data handling norms of India.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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