NEWS27 September 2022

ICO may fine TikTok over children’s privacy

GDPR News Privacy UK Youth

UK – Social media platform TikTok could face a potential financial penalty of up to £27m following an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on how the company processes the data of children.

Child on phone

The UK data regulator has issued a ‘notice of intent’ to fine TikTok following the probe, which found that the company may have breached data protection law between May 2018 and July 2020.

The ICO investigation found that TikTok may have: processed the data of children under the age of 13 without ‘appropriate parental consent’; failed to provide information to users in a ‘concise, transparent and easily understood way’; and processed special category data without legal grounds to do so.

The information commissioner’s views in the notice are ‘provisional’ and the ICO said it has not reached a conclusion on whether data protection law has been breached or whether a fine will be imposed.

Companies who breach the UK GDPR (UK General Data Protection Regulation) or the Data Protection Act can be fined up to £17.5m or 4% of the organisation’s annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

Under the UK GDPR, special category data includes: ethnic and racial origin, political opinions, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, trade union membership, genetic and biometric data or health data.

Information commissioner John Edwards said: “We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections. Companies providing digital services have a legal duty to put those protections in place, but our provisional view is that TikTok fell short of meeting that requirement.

“I’ve been clear that our work to better protect children online involves working with organisations but will also involve enforcement action where necessary. In addition to this, we are currently looking into how over 50 different online services are conforming with the children’s code and 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.”

A TikTok spokesperson said: “This notice of intent, covering the period May 2018 – July 2020, is provisional and as the ICO itself has stated, no final conclusions can be drawn at this time. While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course.”