The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK has imposed a fine of $15.9 million on short-video sharing app TikTok for violating data privacy and cybersecurity laws. The app allowed over 1.4 million children in the UK, under 13 years of age, to use the platform in 2020, violating the platform’s own rules prohibiting children under 13 from creating accounts.
The watchdog said that TikTok failed to identify and remove underage children from the app and obtain their parents’ consent for data processing. The ICO also said that TikTok failed to properly inform people about how their data was collected, used, and shared.
TikTok has disputed the watchdog’s decision and stated that it had invested heavily to keep children under 13 off the platform and improve its sign-up system. The company has also said it is reviewing the decision and considering next steps.
The ICO had been investigating data breaches that took place between May 2018 and July 2020. The watchdog initially imposed a fine of $27 million on TikTok, which was later reduced after the company persuaded regulators to drop other charges.
In the US, regulators had fined TikTok, then known as Musical.ly, $5.7 million in 2019 in a similar case that involved allegations of unlawful collection of children’s personal information.
Governments across the world are increasingly scrutinizing TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, due to concerns over data privacy and cybersecurity risks. TikTok has become increasingly popular with young people globally, and the platform’s content includes short videos with music and various filters.
TikTok has been trying to address data privacy and cybersecurity concerns, and the company has recently appointed a new CEO who is based in the US. TikTok has also been investing in improving its content moderation policies and increasing transparency in its data privacy practices.
The company has introduced features to enable parents to control their children’s accounts, including allowing parents to limit the amount of time their children spend on the app and the type of content they can view. TikTok has also been collaborating with cybersecurity firms to improve its threat detection and response capabilities.
Despite these efforts, TikTok continues to face regulatory challenges in several countries. The platform was banned in India last year over concerns about national security and data privacy, and the US government had also attempted to ban the app due to concerns over its ties to China. The ban was later overturned after TikTok sued the US government. However, the US government continues to investigate the app’s data privacy and cybersecurity practices.
TikTok’s latest fine in the UK highlights the importance of complying with data privacy and cybersecurity regulations, especially when it comes to protecting children’s data. The app’s popularity among young people makes it even more crucial to ensure that their data is protected and used responsibly. TikTok will need to continue to invest in improving its data privacy and cybersecurity practices to avoid further regulatory action and maintain its users’ trust.