TikTok Fined €345 Million For Breaking EU Data Law On Children’s Accounts

Children using TikTok

The fine underlines the potential risks faced by TikTok's young users; Credit: Freepik

TikTok, the immensely popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app, has been hit with a massive €345 million fine by Ireland’s data regulator for breaches of children’s privacy on its platform.

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) of Ireland, Helen Dixon, led the charge against TikTok, revealing that adults had the ability to enable direct messages for certain teenagers on the platform, even when they had no family ties to them. This concerning revelation raised questions about TikTok’s “family pairing” feature, which could inadvertently link children’s accounts to unverified adults who were not their parents or guardians.

The DPC’s investigation uncovered multiple violations of EU data laws by TikTok, particularly in its dealings with teenagers, reported the Irish Times.

The company also faced criticism for failing to adequately protect pre-teens using its platform. TikTok’s meteoric rise to fame, with its viral dance videos, comedy sketches, and lip-sync routines, has made it a global sensation, boasting over a billion users worldwide.

One of the key concerns raised was the default account settings for children on TikTok.

These settings set user accounts to “public” by default, meaning that videos posted by child users were automatically made public, comments were enabled for public viewing, and features like Duet and Stitch, which allow users to incorporate content from other creators into their posts, were also activated by default.

Additionally, the investigation found that TikTok did not adequately consider the risks posed to children under the age of 13 who gained access to the app through these default account settings, essentially allowing anyone, whether on or off TikTok, to view the content posted by these young users.

This extensive investigation focused on EU law breaches from July to December 2020.

Despite TikTok’s claims that it had already addressed the offending features, the Irish regulator issued an order requiring TikTok Technology Ltd to bring its data processing practices into compliance within three months from the date of the DPC’s decision, which was notified to the company on Friday, 1 September.

TikTok responded to the ruling with a measured statement, expressing its respectful disagreement with the decision, particularly the scale of the fine imposed. The company stated that many of the criticised features and settings were in place three years ago, and had been modified long before the investigation began, including setting all accounts of users under the age of 16 to private by default.

As the debate over data privacy and user safety in the digital age intensifies, TikTok has hinted at the possibility of appealing the DPC’s decision in the High Court, indicating that the repercussions of this case are far from over.

TikTok’s spokesman said “we are evaluating our next steps” when asked whether it would appeal the DPC ruling in the High Court.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Jo Pugh

Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.