ICO finds TikTok did not do enough to keep children aged under 13 off the platform, and that as a result up to 1.4 million gained access
The Chinese-owned social media app did not do enough to check who was using the platform and remove underage accounts, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said on Tuesday.
That led “up to 1.4 million UK children” gaining access to the platform as of 2020, according to the ICO’s estimate, even though this was against TikTok’s own policies.
UK law requires organisations that use the personal data of children to obtain consent from their parents or carers.
‘Laws in place’
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. TikTok did not abide by those laws,” said information commissioner John Edwards in a statement.
“As a consequence, an estimated 1 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 added that TikTok “should have done better” and that the fine reflects the “serious impact” their 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,” he said.
The ICO said its investigation found concerns about the issue were raised internally but that TikTok did not respond “adequately”.
TikTok said it invests “heavily” to keep under-13s off the platform and that its safety team “works around the clock” to keep the platform safe.
“While we disagree with the ICO’s decision, which relates to May 2018 to July 2020, we are pleased that the fine announced today has been reduced to under half the amount proposed last year. We will continue to review the decision and are considering next steps,” the company said.
Last September the ICO warned TikTok of a possible £27m fine.
The firm emphasised that it has changed its practices since the period investigated by the ICO and now uses more signals than a user’s self-identified age to determine a user’s age, including training moderators to identify underage accounts.