ICO slaps TikTok with £12 million fine

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‘TikTok should have done better’ says the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as it issues a £12,700,000 fine to the social media site over the use of children’s personal data.

The ICO is asserting that TikTok ‘did not do enough’ to check if underage children were using the social media app and take sufficient action to remove them, and by doing so breached the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) between May 2018 and July 2020.

It estimates that up to 1.4 million UK children under 13 were using the platform in 2020, despite the fact it has rules about not allowing children that age to create an account.

The organisation also says that UK data protection law says that organisations that use personal data when offering ‘information society services’ to children under 13 must have consent from their parents or carers, and that TikTok failed to do that.

“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,” said John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner. “As a consequence, an estimated one million under 13s were inappropriately granted access to the platform, with TikTok collecting and using their personal data. That means that their data may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, 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. They did not do enough to check who was using their platform or take sufficient action to remove the underage children that were using their platform.”

The social media platform is getting it from all sides in Europe at the US currently. The UK, US and EU have banned the app from government devices, and there were reportedly calls for it to be sold off from Chinese owner ByteDance or risk face an outright US ban. Last week CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled in front of Congress about the security and data collection practices of the app, amongst other things.

Whatever the details when it comes to how TikTok is handling the data it gathers from its users, underage or otherwise, the news will not be unrelated to the wider rift between the West and China and the quasi-trade war that has spread to all sorts of technological areas, usually under the banner of security concerns.


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