UK to penalize TikTok What is Children's data privacy - Cover Picture

TikTok is in hot water after the UK (United Kingdom) government revealed that they are planning to penalize the social networking app. This comes after an investigation found that TikTok may have violated the data privacy of children. The organization responsible for this investigation of TikTok’s data privacy is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent body operating in the UK. Their top priority is making sure that companies like TikTok respect the rights of citizens in regard to their data and information.

Now that the investigation has found that TikTok did breach British laws concerning data privacy, it comes with a hefty penalty. TikTok may need to pay $29 million USD or £27 million GBP if this whole thing wraps up and TikTok did indeed breach the said privacy laws. The reason why this is more than alarming is that children’s data privacy is involved after TikTok “processed the data of children under the age of 13.” The ICO also explained that the social networking app did so without parental consent.

How did TikTok fail to protect children’s data privacy in the UK?

The ICO shed some light on what prompted the investigation and the possible penalty in the first place. According to Information Commission John Edwards, “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.”

  • TikTok wasn’t at all transparent when they processed the information of children under the age of 13
    • They were unable to provide proper information to users “in a concise, transparent and easily understood way”
  • There was no appropriate parental consent before TikTok processed the data
  • Thus, all of this broke UK data protection law from May 2018 through July 2020

The investigation began way back in 2019 and according to the ICO, they are not only coming after TikTok. The organization is also conducting six other investigations among companies that fail to follow the data protection law in the UK.

UK to penalize TikTok What is Children's data privacy - TikTok
Image Courtesy of Chris Delmas via Getty Images

In a statement to Reuters, a spokesperson for TikTok said the following:

“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.”

How does the UK uphold children’s data privacy?

In the United Kingdom, they call it the “Children’s Code.” According to the ICO, it is put into place to ensure the security of children on the Internet.

  • This code of practice and set of standards was implemented in September 2021
  • The Children’s Code needs to be followed by online services such as apps like TikTok
  • They also cover online games, other social media sites, and online services which are likely to be used by children

If a company or an online service fails to follow the 15 standards set by the Children’s Code, the ICO will launch a formal investigation. Similar to what they did with TikTok, they can impose fines for non-compliance with the standards of the Children’s Code.

Should the ICO be successful in proving that TikTok did indeed fail to protect the information of children on their app, TikTok will face a huge fine. Though given the revenue they are raking in, it’s unlikely that this will put a dent in TikTok’s bank account.

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SOURCES: Reuters, Information Commissioner’s Office, TikTok, ISO Republic, Getty Images