UK fines TikTok £12.7 million for misusing children’s data
The United Kingdom’s data protection regulator issued TikTok a £12.7 million ($15.8 million) fine on Tuesday for misusing children’s data.
The penalty follows an investigation that found concerns had been raised internally with senior employees at TikTok, but had not been adequately responded to.
An initial notice of intent to fine TikTok had set the penalty at £27 million ($33 million) although this was ultimately reduced “taking into consideration the representations from TikTok.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found TikTok collected personal data belonging to more than a million children aged under 13 without parental consent, a breach of data protection law.
Up to 1.4 million children in Britain used the platform in 2020, said the ICO, despite TikTok’s own rules not allowing children to create an account.
The ICO said that TikTok failed to get parental consent “even though it ought to have been aware that under 13s were using its platform,” and also “failed to carry out adequate checks to identify and remove underage children from its platform.”
A spokesperson for TikTok said: “TikTok is a platform for users aged 13 and over. We invest heavily to help keep under 13s off the platform and our 40,000 strong safety team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe for our community.
“While we disagree with the ICO's decision, which relates to May 2018 - July 2020, we are pleased that the fine announced today has been reduced to under half the amount proposed last year. We will continue to review the decision and are considering next steps,” they added.
John Edwards, the U.K. information commissioner, said: “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.”
He warned that as a consequence of TikTok breaching data protection rules, children’s data “may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their very next scroll.”
Edwards said the company “should have known better” and “should have done better.”
“Our £12.7m fine reflects the serious impact their failures may have had,” said Edwards. “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.”
France fined TikTok €5 million (about $5.4 million) in January for making it difficult for users to opt out of being tracked on its website.
Alexander Martin is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.