The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the U.K. announced today that it has issued a £12,700,000 fine to TikTok Information Technologies U.K. Limited and TikTok Inc (TikTok) for a number of breaches of data protection law, including failing to use children’s personal data lawfully.
The ICO estimates that TikTok allowed up to 1.4 million U.K. children under 13 to use its platform in 2020, despite its own rules not allowing children that age to create an account.
U.K. data protection law says that organizations that use personal data when offering information society services to children under 13 must have consent from their parents or carers.
ICO found TikTok failed to do that, even though it ought to have been aware that under 13s were using its platform. ICO also said TikTok failed to carry out adequate checks to identify and remove underage children from its platform.
The ICO investigation found that a concern was raised internally with some senior employees about children under 13 using the platform and not being removed. In ICO’s view TikTok did not respond adequately.
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” said John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner. “TikTok did not abide by those laws. As a consequence, an estimated one million under 13s were inappropriately granted access to the platform, with TikTok collecting and using their personal data. That means that their data may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their very next scroll.”
Edwards said the £12.7m fine reflects the serious impact that TikTok’s failures may have had. “They did not do enough to check who was using their platform or take sufficient action to remove the underage children that were using their platform.”
ICO has published the Children’s Code to help protect children in the digital world. It is a statutory code of practice aimed at online services, such as apps, gaming platforms and web and social media sites, that are likely to be accessed by children. The code sets out 15 standards to ensure children have the best possible experience of online services.