TikTok could face a £27 million fine after the Information Commissioner’s Office said it had found the company may have breached UK data protection law by failing to protect children’s privacy when using the platform.
The watchdog has issued the social media platform with a “notice of intent” – a legal document that precedes a potential fine.
It sets out that between May 2018 and July 2020, TikTok may have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent, failed to provide proper information to its users in a concise, transparent and easily understood way and processed special category data without legal grounds to do so.
Information Commissioner John Edwards said: “We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections.
“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."
Mr Edwards said the ICO is looking into how more than 50 different online services are conforming with the Children’s Code and have "six ongoing investigations looking into companies providing digital services who haven’t, in our initial view, taken their responsibilities around child safety seriously enough"
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Rolled out in September last year, the Children’s Code put in place new data protection codes of practice for online services likely to be accessed by children, built on existing data protection laws, with financial penalties a possibility for serious breaches.
The ICO said its findings are provisional and that no conclusion should be drawn there had been a breach of data protection law. In order for such a conclusion to be drawn, a fine would have had to have been imposed, the ICO said. The watchdog also added that it would consider any representations by TikTok before reaching a final conclusion.
A TikTok spokesperson said: “This notice of intent, covering the period May 2018-July 2020, is provisional and as the ICO itself has stated, no final conclusions can be drawn at this time.
“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.”