EU Regulator Slams €345 million fine on TikTok for Privacy Breaches
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Short video-sharing platform TikTok has been hit with a fine of €345 million by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), EU’s lead regulator. The company was fined for alleged child data breaches after two years of inquiry by the regulator.
The Chinese-owned platform has become popular among teenagers around the world. According to the EU regulator, TikTok breached several EU privacy laws between July 31, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
TikTok Disagrees With The Fine
This will be the first time TikTok will be in the wrong books of the DPC, the leading regulator in the EU for tech companies, because of the strategic location of its headquarters in Ireland.
A TikTok spokesperson stated that the company does not agree with the regulator’s decision, especially the size of the fine. The spokesperson added that most criticisms against the company were not justifiable, considering the firm had already introduced specific measures before the regulator began its probe in September 2021.
The DPC noted that for some breaches, TikTok did not state whether a user is a guardian or a child user’s parent. The regulator also said that TikTok set users’ accounts under 16 years to the public by default.
In November 2020, TikTok included a more robust parental control feature, and in January 2021, it changed its default setting for users under 16 years to “private.”
DPC Faults TikTok’s Teen Account Setting
The DPC started investigating TikTok’s compliance with its laws about personal data processing and platform setting in 2021, especially for users under 18.
Although the DPC said there was no breach of age verification measures for children aged 13 years and below, the regulator faulted TikTok’s account setting that set teenagers’ accounts to public, which means their consent was viewable by everyone.
The DPC also faulted the company’s‘ family pairing’ feature, which is meant to link the accounts of parents and their children on the platform. Additionally, the regulator discovered that TikTok allows teen users to sign up and post videos using more “privacy intrusive” options.
The Irish regulator has continued its clampdown on social media companies. The EU lead regulator is poised to maintain its goal of seriously monitoring and regulating the tech sector in Europe.
Earlier in May this year, the regulator slammed a €1.2 billion fine on Meta over a data transfer breach in the United States. Despite these regulatory movements, the DPC is criticized for not acting quickly enough since the new EU privacy laws were made in 2018.