The popular video-sharing application known as TikTok might be subject to a punishment of £27 million, which is equivalent to around $29 million, in the United Kingdom for failing to safeguard the privacy of minors.
In the first major case brought under new British regulations aimed at protecting minors online, British regulators issued a warning notice to TikTok on Monday. The notice stated that the company had handled the information of minors without the appropriate permission from their parents, processed sensitive details without the legal grounds to do so, and failed to explain the platform’s data practises in a way that children could easily understand. This was the first major case brought under the new British regulations.
Even though the conclusions are preliminary, the official warning that authorities plan to levy a punishment was included in a legal document that was delivered to TikTok by Britain’s data protection agency, the Information Commissioner’s Office.
It is not the first time that the video-sharing app has been accused of failing to safeguard the privacy of its younger users, but it is the most recent time that the allegations have been made public. In 2019, the operators of the platform that is now known as TikTok, Musical.ly, agreed to pay a fine of $5.7 million to settle federal charges that it had violated a federal law in the United States that protects the online privacy of children. The law was the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
The decision made by the British government comes at a time when the United States government is attempting to settle issues related to national security with TikTok, which is controlled by the Chinese internet firm ByteDance.
TikTok issued a statement in which it expressed disagreement with the conclusions reached by the Information Commissioner’s Office and pointed out that such conclusions were just tentative.
One year has passed since Britain enacted broad new internet safeguards for kids known as the Children’s Code, and this is when the privacy complaint against TikTok was first filed.
These regulations stipulate that online businesses, such as social networks and platforms for online video games, must develop their services and features with the welfare of children as their primary concern while doing so. The laws ban online services from monitoring children’s specific whereabouts and require online services that are likely to be used by children to adjust their privacy settings so that they provide the maximum level of protection possible for young users.
Popular social media platforms such as YouTube, Snap, TikTok, and Instagram made public announcements that they were strengthening their kid safety features in the weeks and months leading up to the Children’s Code coming into force in Britain in 2018.
According to statements made by British officials, the inquiry into TikTok was a part of a much larger effort in the United Kingdom to verify that businesses are complying with the new regulations.
According to a statement released by the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner John Edwards, “We are currently looking into how over 50 different online services are conforming with the Children’s Code,” and “we 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.”
Two weeks ago, the state of California passed a comprehensive new internet safety rule for kids that was inspired by the work that the United Kingdom has been making. The name of the recently enacted law is the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, and its implementation is scheduled for the year 2024.