DUBLIN — TikTok has been fined 345 million euros ($370 million) for violating privacy laws regarding the processing of children’s personal data in the European Union, its company said Friday. main regulator of the block.
The Chinese short video platform, which has grown rapidly among teenagers around the world in recent years, violated a number of EU privacy laws between July 31, 2020 and December 31 2020, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) said. in a report.
This is the first time that ByteDance-owned TikTok has been reprimanded by the DPC, the European Union’s main regulator for many of the world’s biggest tech companies, due to the location of their regional headquarters in Ireland .
A TikTok spokesperson said it disagreed with the decision, particularly the amount of the fine, and that most of the criticism was no longer relevant due to the measures introduced. before the DPC investigation begins in September 2021.
3 months to comply
The DPC said TikTok’s violations included how, in 2020, accounts of users under 16 were set as “public” by default and that TikTok did not verify whether a user was actually the parent or child. guardian of a child user when linked via “family matching”. functionality.
TikTok added stricter parental controls to family pairing in November 2020 and changed the default setting for all registered users under 16 to “private” in January 2021.
TikTok announced Friday that it plans to further update its privacy documents to clarify the differences between public and private accounts and that a private account will be pre-selected for new users aged 16 to 17 when they sign up for application at the end of the month. .
The DPC gave TikTok three months to bring all its processing into compliance when violations were noted.
A second investigation is opened into TikTok’s transfer of personal data to China and whether TikTok complies with European data law when transferring personal data to countries outside the bloc. In March, the DPC said it was preparing a preliminary draft decision on this investigation.
Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduced in 2018, a given company’s main regulator can impose fines of up to 4% of the company’s global turnover .
The DPC has imposed hefty fines on other tech giants, including a total of €2.5 billion imposed on Meta. At the end of 2022, 22 investigations were opened against multinationals based in Ireland.
The fine is the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Irish watchdog, which plays a key role in enforcing the bloc’s strict GDPR. The regulator highlighted in its Friday ruling how children who signed up had their TikTok accounts made public by default, meaning anyone could view or comment on their content.
He also criticized TikTok’s “family matching” mode, designed to link parents’ accounts with those of their teenage offspring, but the DPC found the company failed to verify parent or guardian status.
17 million accounts deleted
TikTok is extremely popular among young people, with 150 million users in the United States and 134 million in the European Union.
In response to the fine, TikTok said it “respectfully disagrees” with the verdict and is “evaluating” how to proceed.
“The criticisms of the DPC relate to functionalities and parameters which were in place three years ago, and which we modified well before the investigation even began, such as making private by default all the accounts of under 16 years old,” a TikTok spokesperson told Agence France. -Press (AFP).
The platform insists that it closely monitors the age of its users and takes action if necessary.
TikTok says it removed nearly 17 million accounts worldwide in the first three months of this year due to suspicions that they belonged to people under the age of 13.
Friday’s fine comes after the European Union last week unveiled a list of digital giants, including Apple, Facebook owner Meta and ByteDance, that will face tough new restrictions on how they make business.
READ: Which applications are the least user-friendly when it comes to respecting user privacy?
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