TikTok, the social media platform and video-sharing app has been issued a multimillion-dollar fine of £12.7 million by the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This was due to suspicions that the company had failed to adhere to the law of having proper measures in place to protect children under the age of 13 from entering their platform and keep their data used securely and safely.
The ICO formerly stated that a potential fine of £27 million could be imposed on the company’s breaches of data, but later made the decision to reduce that fine after opting not to pursue the initial findings of supplying special category data. The reduced penalty still took into account the company’s lack of enforcing their own terms of service, – which enforced no access of their platform to individuals under the age of 13 – and additional oversight that could have prevented the estimated 1.4 million minors from accessing the platform.
John Edwards, IT Officer of the ICO warned of their zero-tolerance policy for companies that do not abide by the laws that protect children online and the need for companies to effectively check, identify and remove such users from the website.
TikTok’s parent company is ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company specializing in media, games and artificial intelligence. ByteDance currently operates in 149 countries and its most popular product, TikTok, is used by roughly 800 million users making it the most downloaded mobile app of 2020. The company is led by Founder and CEO, Zhang Yiming, who has an estimated net worth of 17 billion.
The company has now become aware of the issuances and has embraced their responsibilities to protect users’ safety, each promising their commitment to their users and strengthening the safeguarding policies that are already in existence. Time will tell whether these measures were enough to warrant the mistake they had made in not providing these safeguards previously.