The British regulator does not rule out imposing a £27 million ($29 million) fine on the social network TikTok for violations of the processing of legally protected data of underage users.
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has a so-called. a “Notice of Intent” for TikTok with a “preliminary opinion” that the social network violated British data protection law from May 2018 to July 2020 – the company was already under investigation in 2019.
According to the ICO, TikTok is allowed to process data of children under the age of 13 without parental consent, not provide user-friendly information and process “special categories of personal data” such as race or ethnicity of users without legal basis.
According to an ICO spokesman, companies that offer digital services have a legal obligation to protect data, but TikTok, according to management, is not fulfilling this obligation. At the same time, the ICO emphasized that the statement is preliminary and that there is no official conclusion on data protection violations or the imposition of a fine at this time. However, if such violations are found, TikTok faces a fine of 4% of the social network’s annual income, under EU GDPR law, which the UK still abides by.
TikTok now has 30 days to respond – if the company’s representatives are convincing enough, the ICO can reduce the amount of the fine or even waive it altogether. TikTok officials have already stated that they disagree with the conclusions of the ICO and the preparation of an official response.
In general, according to ICO data, the department monitors the activities of 50 online platforms that process children’s data. Six preliminary investigations are currently underway against companies that, according to the preliminary assessment of the supervisory authority, have not fulfilled their child protection obligations “seriously enough”.
The TikTok platform is extremely popular among teenagers, with over 1 billion platform users worldwide every month. Last year, Dutch regulators fined the social network €750,000 ($723,371) for violating the privacy of children’s data and failing to provide legally required information in Dutch. TikTok has appealed the fine, but the outcome of the case is not yet known.
For years, TikTok has successfully eluded Western regulators, whose focus is on American companies like Facebook.* and Google, but with the aggravation of the global geopolitical situation, the situation has changed. Western authorities have raised concerns that the Chinese platform may be providing Beijing with “backdoors” that allow it to spy on users from around the world. In particular, in the era of Donald Trump’s (Donald Trump) presidency, the latter tried to deprive TikTok of America’s division, forcing it to be sold to more “trustworthy” companies.
* It is included in the list of public associations and religious organizations for which the court made a final decision to liquidate or ban activities on the grounds provided for in Federal Law No. 114-FZ of July 25. 2002 “On Countering Extremist Activities”.