TikTok Hit with £12.7m Fine by ICO for Breaching Children’s Data Privacy Laws

TikTok Hit with £12.7m Fine by ICO for Breaching Children's Data Privacy Laws
TikTok Hit with £12.7m Fine by ICO for Breaching Children's Data Privacy Laws

TikTok, the popular video-sharing site, has been fined £12.7m by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for failing to protect children’s privacy. The ICO’s investigation revealed that TikTok allowed up to 1.4 million children in the UK under 13 to use the platform in 2020, despite setting 13 as the minimum age to create an account. The forum was found to have abused children’s data without obtaining parental consent, potentially exposing them to harmful or inappropriate content.

Information Commissioner John Edwards emphasized that there are laws in place to ensure the safety of children in both the physical and digital worlds and TikTok failed to abide by those laws. He stated that an estimated one million under-13s were inappropriately granted access to TikTok, with their data being collected and used by the platform. He further noted that TikTok should have known better and done better and that the £12.7m fine reflects the severe impact of their failures.

Despite the risks involved, Edwards also revealed that TikTok had taken no steps to obtain parental consent. He explained that when users sign up on TikTok, they can be targeted for advertising and profiling, and their data can contribute to algorithms that determine content. This can result in exposure to inappropriate content, harming young users who may not fully understand the implications and make appropriate choices.

The fine imposed by the ICO serves as a reminder to companies to prioritize the privacy and safety of children on their platforms and comply with relevant laws and regulations.

TikTok Want the Fine To Be Reduced

The ICO’s fine of £12.7m issued to TikTok is one of the largest fines the watchdog has ever imposed. A spokesperson from TikTok stated that their safety team, which consists of 40,000 members, works tirelessly to ensure the platform is safe for its community. While TikTok disagrees with the ICO’s decision, they are pleased that the fine has been reduced to less than half of the amount proposed the previous year. They also mentioned that they would continue to review the decision and are considering their next steps.

Previously, the ICO had issued TikTok with a “notice of intent” indicating the potential for a £27m fine for the breaches related to children’s privacy. Prof Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics and Political Science praised the ICO’s action but expressed concern that the fine amount could be perceived as merely the cost of doing business by TikTok. She hoped that TikTok would thoroughly review its practices and proactively ensure privacy and safety for children in the future.

A parent interviewed by the Technoutility mentioned that she allows her 10-year-old son to use TikTok, but she monitors his usage, including what he posts and who he talks to. However, she acknowledged that she could not monitor everything he saw on the platform. She expressed a desire for better monitoring options to ensure her child’s safety while using TikTok.

Tiktok Is In Trouble

TikTok has the option to appeal against the fine issued by the ICO and has 28 days to make representations. If successful, the final amount could be reduced. The ICO has a maximum of 16 weeks from issuing the notice of a proposed fine to delivering its final verdict.

Fines received by the ICO are returned to the Treasury. However, TikTok may face further concerns as the UK Online Safety Bill, expected to be passed in the coming months, requires strict age verification processes by social networks. Firms that breach these requirements may face fines.

It is worth noting that the £12.7m fine imposed by the ICO may be considered a small amount compared to the reported revenue of $80bn (£64bn) generated by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, a Chinese tech company, in 2022.

Additionally, TikTok is facing global scrutiny over security concerns, with many Western countries taking measures against the app due to fears of data sharing with the Chinese government. TikTok has been banned on government devices in several countries, including Canada, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Taiwan, the UK, the US, and anyone working at the European Commission. TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, has appeared in Congress to address safety concerns and reassure lawmakers about the security of users’ data.

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