TikTok may not have done enough to protect the privacy of children and may face a $29 million fine in the UK as a result.
British regulators sent a "notice of intent" to TikTok claiming the company broke UK data protection laws between May 2018 and July 2020. An investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found the company had data on minors under the age of 13 without parental consent, did not give adequate information on data rights to its users in an easy to understand way, and illegally collected "special category" information.
"We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections," ICO information commissioner John Edwards said in a statement. "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."
The ICO findings are still "provisional," and TikTok has 30 days to respond to the findings. If found guilty, TikTok could face 27 million pound fine, which comes out to $29 million.
The notice comes a year after the UK instituted new legislation known as the "Children's Code," which requires online companies to tailor their services to protect kids. This includes using the extra privacy settings for young users, as well as not revealing the exact locations of minors.
"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," a TikTok spokesperson stated.
TikTok previously faced a fine in the U.S. for failure to protect children's data in 2019, when it was still known as Musical.ly. The company settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $5.7 million for illegally collecting names, emails, pictures, and locations of children under the age of 13. It also was fined in the Netherlands in 2021 for 750,000 euros — approximately $723,371 — for violating children's privacy and not translating its terms into Dutch, which the company is appealing.