The Ireland Data Protection Commission (DPC) imposed a massive €345 million (about $367 million) fine on TikTok for mishandling children’s data. The DPC examined if TikTok violated European privacy laws, known as GDPR.
In a statement, TikTok disagreed with the decision and expressed concerns about the fine’s level. They mentioned that the DPC’s criticisms targeted features and settings from three years ago.
The DPC leveled criticism at TikTok for two key issues:
Firstly, TikTok faced criticism for setting user profiles, even for teenagers aged 13 to 17, as public by default. When these young users signed up on TikTok, their videos, comments, and shared content automatically became visible to everyone, without their consent.
Secondly, the DPC scrutinized TikTok’s “Family Pairing” feature, designed for parents to connect with their child’s account for monitoring. However, TikTok failed to verify if the “parent” account genuinely belonged to the teenager’s guardian, raising concerns about control and potential connections to unverified adults.
TikTok’s response to the $367 million fine
TikTok’s head of privacy for Europe, Elaine Fox, announced in a blog post that the company would assess its response to the DPC fine and order.
Elaine Fox highlighted that TikTok always aimed to give users control over choosing public or private accounts. They noted that in January 2021, eight months before the DPC investigation, they made all accounts for 13- to 15-year-olds private by default. Further changes were made to enhance young users’ privacy.
Elaine Fox added that TikTok would introduce a redesigned account registration process for new 16- and 17-year-old users, where ‘private account’ would be pre-selected.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined TikTok over $15 million for allegedly failing to enforce rules prohibiting children under 13 from using the platform without parental consent.
Additionally, France’s privacy regulator, CNIL, fined TikTok €5 million in January. This resulted from concerns about TikTok’s handling of cookies on its website. TikTok made it easy for users to accept cookies but did not provide a straightforward option to decline them.
In conclusion, the DPC’s significant fine against TikTok highlights the importance of safeguarding young users’ privacy and adhering to data protection rules. This action sets a crucial example for ensuring the safety of children’s data in the digital age.
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