Video sharing app TikTok faces a $29 million fine in the U.K after an investigation by the British Government discovered that the social media app breached the U.K data protection laws and failed to protect children’s privacy.
According to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), a notice of intent was issued to TikTok and TikTok Information Technologies UK entity, alleging that the social media app breached British rules between May 2018 and July 2020. A notice of intent precedes a potential fine from the regulator.
ICO also explained that TikTok “may have” processed data of children under the age of 13 without parental consent. Additionally, it stated that the company 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.
Special category data refers to sensitive personal data in areas such as sexual orientation, religious beliefs, ethnic and racial origin, political opinions, and genetic and biometric data.
The information commissioner John Edwards while addressing TikTok’s breach of Children’s data protection laws said,
“We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections.
“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.
Edwards also indicated the ICO plans to take enforcement action against other companies.
“We are currently looking into how over 50 different online services are conforming with the Children’s Code and have six ongoing investigations looking into companies providing digital services who haven’t, in our initial view, taken their responsibilities around child safety seriously enough,”
The UK “Children’s Code,” also known as the age-appropriate design code, seeks to create a safer internet for children by enforcing 15 standards that apps and online services need to follow.
It specifically targets Big Tech names including Meta, YouTube, and TikTok, and is applied to any companies, including those outside the UK, that process personal data of British kids.