TikTok fined £12.7m for multiple UK data protection breaches

TikTok data Image credit: DANIEL CONSTANTE via Shutterstock

TikTok has been fined £12.7m by the UK’s data regulator for multiple breaches of British child protection policy.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the Chinese-owned video-sharing app did not do enough to police age restrictions on its platform.

Information Commissioner John Edwards said that an estimated “one million under 13s were inappropriately granted access to the platform” despite laws put in place to prevent children from digital harm.

“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,” Edwards said.

The ICO boss said the children’s data therefore might have been “used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their very next scroll”.

He added that the fine “reflects the serious impact their [TikTok’s] 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”.

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 to 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.”

The fine comes as pressure from Western nations mounts against the Chinese-owned social media platform. The UK, along with several other countries, has banned the use of TikTok on government-owned devices as a data protection measure.

Last month, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced hours of questioning at a US congressional hearing over the company’s relations with China and its Beijing-based owner ByteDance.

“This is yet another blow to the social media giant which has gone to extra lengths to show that it can protect user data,” said Jake Moore, global security advisor at cybersecurity company ESET. “Confidence in TikTok is already lower than they would want so this will be extra painful.”