TikTok may be in trouble for breaching UK’s data-protection laws

By our News Team | 2022

Regulator says the platform ‘may have’ processed children’s data without consent and also contravened other UK privacy legislation.

TikTok, the increasingly popular social media platform, faces a possible penalty of up to £27-million (US$29,1-million) following an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK on how the company processes the data of children.

The ICO, which is the country’s data regulator, has issued a notice of intent to fine the platform after it found that TikTok could have breached data-protection legislation between May 2018 and July 2020.

Consumer Privacy

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Investigators found that TikTok “may have”: processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent; failed to provide information to users in a concise, transparent and easily understood way; and processed special category data without legal grounds to do so.

At this stage, the findings are only provisional, meaning the ICO has not reached a conclusion on whether laws have been breached or whether a fine will ultimately be imposed.

Proper privacy protection for children

“We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections,” said Information Commissioner, John Edwards.

“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.

“I’ve been clear that our work to better protect children online involves working with organisations, but will also involve enforcement action where necessary. In addition to this, 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.”

In its response, TikTok said: “This notice of intent, covering the period May 2018 – July 2020, is provisional and as the ICO itself has stated, no final conclusions can be drawn at this time. While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course.”