A British government privacy watchdog fined Chinese social media app TikTok nearly $16 million for misusing child users’ data.
Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office on Tuesday fined TikTok the equivalent of $15.9 million on allegations of illegal data collection from children, ABC News reported. The platform was charged with violating British law as well as its own terms by allowing over a million underage children to create accounts.
The fine comes as TikTok is under scrutiny around the world both for privacy concerns and the national security threat posed by its close relationship with China’s Communist Party.
“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,” said information commissioner John Edwards in a press release.
British law requires parental consent to collect children’s online data. TikTok’s terms set the minimum age for users at 13, but still allowed 1.4 million British children under 13 to use the app in 2020.
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” Edwards said. “TikTok did not abide by those laws.”
TikTok disputed the allegations against the platform.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
TikTok and its CEO Shou Zi Chew have faced bipartisan scrutiny in the United States over national security concerns. In a House hearing last month, Chew refused to confirm or deny that the app’s Chinese government-controlled parent company, ByteDance, could seize user data.
Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) noted that the Chinese-controlled app is “ultimately required to do the bidding of Chinese intelligence services, should they be called upon to do so.”
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