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Business News/ Technology / News/  TikTok Fined $15.8 Million by U.K. Regulator for Misuse of Children’s Data
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TikTok Fined $15.8 Million by U.K. Regulator for Misuse of Children’s Data

wsj

Social-media platform failed to remove underage users, authorities say

The logo of Chinese-owned video app TikTok is seen on a smartphone in front of an image of the Australian national flag in this illustration picture taken April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/Illustration (REUTERS)Premium
The logo of Chinese-owned video app TikTok is seen on a smartphone in front of an image of the Australian national flag in this illustration picture taken April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/Illustration (REUTERS)

U.K. authorities have fined TikTok 12.7 million pounds, equivalent to $15.8 million, for breaching the country’s data-protection laws, including the misuse of children’s information.

The social-media platform, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., failed to get consent from the parents of children on its platform and didn’t do enough to remove underage users, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office said Tuesday.

“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world," the U.K.’s Information Commissioner John Edwards said. “TikTok did not abide by those laws."

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.

“Their data may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their very next scroll," Mr. Edwards said.

TikTok said it disagreed with the fine and was reviewing the decision.

“We invest heavily to help keep under 13s off the platform and our 40,000 strong safety team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe for our community," a company spokeswoman said. She added that the company was pleased the fine was reduced to less than half the proposed amount last year.

The ICO’s original notice of intent set the TikTok fine at £27 million. After taking into consideration representations from the company, the regulator chose to reduce the fine.

Last month, the platform announced it would be adding a new 60-minute screen-time limit for users under the age of 18 in an effort to get young people to become more aware of how much time they spend on the app.

The popular short-form video app said it would automatically add the new limit to every account belonging to young users in the coming weeks. Minors will have to enter a passcode if they want to stay on the app beyond the 60-minute limit, the company said.

“While there’s no collectively-endorsed position on the ‘right’ amount of screen time or even the impact of screen time more broadly, we consulted the current academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital in choosing this limit," Cormac Keenan, head of Trust and Safety at TikTok, said in a statement last month.

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