The popular video sharing app TikTok has been hit with a hefty fine of 345 million euros, equivalent to approximately $368 million, by a European regulator for its failure to adequately protect children’s privacy.
The Irish Data Protection Commission carried out an investigation into TikTok and found several shortcomings in the platform’s policies. This includes the default setting of children’s accounts being public, as well as a lack of transparency regarding rules for users.
The commission also critiqued TikTok’s “Family Pairing” feature, stating that it was not stringent enough. This allowed non-child users, who were not verified as parents or guardians, to be paired with a child’s account and enable direct messaging for users aged 16 and above.
Furthermore, the regulator noted that TikTok was influencing users towards selecting more privacy-intrusive options during the registration process.
In response to the fine, TikTok’s head of privacy in Europe, Elaine Fox, wrote a blog post detailing the platform’s policy updates since the EU investigation began in September 2021.
Fox stated that TikTok made all accounts for users aged 13 to 15 private by default starting from January 2021. Additionally, a redesigned registration flow will be introduced later this month for new users aged 16 to 17, where a private account will be pre-selected.
Regarding the “Family Pairing” feature, Fox explained that TikTok has not allowed guardians to enable direct messaging for users aged 16 to 17 since November 2020 if the feature was already disabled.
This fine from the EU regulator comes at a time when TikTok and other social media companies are facing increasing global scrutiny for their treatment of young users.
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