UK warns TikTok of £27 million fine over child privacy violations

TikTok isn’t just facing fines in the US for alleged violations of children’s privacy. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned TikTok that it could be fined £27m (circa 2018 and July 2020). The company may have processed the data of children under 13 without parental consent, “special category” data (such as ethnicity, sexual orientation or health) without legal basis and not offering users the required information in a “concise, transparent and easily understandable” manner.

ICO began investigating TikTok in February 2019, shortly after the US Federal Trade Commission fined the social media heavyweight $5.7 million for reported child privacy violations. At the time, the UK regulator was concerned about TikTok’s “fully open” direct messages, as well as its transparency tools. Sexual predators were found as young as eight, and it was relatively easy for children to bypass the app’s age limit.

The bureau emphasized that these are preliminary findings and that there is no final conclusion that TikTok will break the law or pay a fine. ICO added that it will “carefully consider” TikTok’s stance before making a final decision. We’ve reached out to the company for comment and will let you know when we receive a response.

The pressure on TikTok to protect children is growing. In the US, members of Congress and attorneys general are grilling TikTok over possible harm to child users, including attempts to tie them into using the app. A fine in the UK may not be the end of the company’s woes, at least until politicians and regulators are convinced it’s protecting young people.

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