The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined TikTok £12.7m for illegally using personal data of over a million young children. Despite banning under-13s from signing up, TikTok allowed 1.4m to register in 2020 alone. UK data laws require apps to gain parental consent before allowing children under 13 to sign up. The ICO stated that TikTok failed to check users’ ages or remove underage users from the service. “An estimated one million under 13s were inappropriately granted access to the platform, with TikTok collecting and using their personal data,” said Information Commissioner John Edwards.
TikTok has previously faced regulatory fines for misusing children’s data. In 2017, it was fined $5.7m in the US over a violation of children’s privacy laws. The app, owned by China’s ByteDance, faces government bans in the UK, US, EU and Australia. The US may ban TikTok unless its Chinese investors sell their stake. Companies are required to prevent under-13s from using the app, but TikTok claims its 40,000-strong safety team helps to keep the platform safe for the community.
According to Ofcom research, TikTok is the second most popular social media service for eight to 12-year-olds, after YouTube, with 53% of children using it. This compares to 28% for Instagram and 30% for Snapchat.