Popular video-sharing app TikTok was slapped with a fine of 345 million euros, approximately $368 million, on Friday by a European regulator, citing the platform’s failure to adequately safeguard children’s privacy.
The Irish Data Protection Commission stated that its probe into TikTok revealed the app’s policies were lacking in several areas. This includes defaulting children’s accounts to public and not offering enough transparency about its rules to its users.
Furthermore, the commission pinpointed TikTok’s “Family Pairing” feature as insufficiently stringent. This setting allowed an unverified non-child user, who couldn’t be confirmed as a parent or guardian, to link their account with that of a 16-17-year-old, subsequently enabling direct messages on the minor’s account.
TikTok Fined Over Children’s Privacy Breach in EU
The regulator also expressed concerns that TikTok was “nudging users towards opting for more privacy-intrusive choices during the sign-up process.”
Reacting to the decision, Elaine Fox, TikTok’s Head of Privacy in Europe, penned a blog post detailing the platform’s policy updates since the EU’s investigation kicked off in September 2021.
Fox highlighted that TikTok made all accounts for users aged 13-15 private by default in January 2021. Additionally, the platform is set to unveil a “redesigned registration flow” for new 16-17-year-old users later this month, which will be “pre-selected” for a private account setting.
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Regarding the “Family Pairing” feature, Fox clarified that since November 2020, TikTok has disallowed guardians from enabling direct messaging for 16-17-year-old users if the feature was previously turned off.
This hefty fine from the EU regulator emerges amidst escalating global scrutiny over how TikTok and other social media giants cater to their younger audience.
With information from The Hill