TikTok was slapped with a $370 million fine by the European Union Friday for mishandling children’s privacy data on the social media app.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission issued the ruling on behalf of the EU, saying that the Chinese-owned video platform didn’t adequately protect children’s privacy or provide transparency on how it handled data of users 17 and younger, The New York Times reported.
Data Protection Commissioner for Ireland Helen Dixon told BBC News that the investigation into TikTok found that the accounts of those ages 13-17 were automatically made public when they registered, which violated the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy law.
“That is precisely at the hands of TikTok because of the way they designed the platform, and we say that infringed the data protection by design and by the default requirements of the GDPR,” Dixon said.
TikTok pushed back and argued that the regulators focused on features that TikTok changed before the investigation began. The investigation focused on the last five months of 2020.
“The criticisms are focused on features and settings that were in place three years ago, and that we made changes to well before the investigation even began, such as setting all under 16 accounts to private by default,” a spokesman for the social media giant said.
The large fine isn’t the first TikTok has faced for its handling of children’s privacy. In 2019, the social media platform, then known as Musical.ly, agreed to a $5.7 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for violating U.S. rules relating to data protection for children. Then, earlier this year, TikTok was fined $15.8 million by British regulators for allowing children under the age of 13 to sign up, according to the Times.
TikTok has faced waves of criticism from city, state, and federal government officials in the U.S. and governments around the world that are concerned about the Chinese-owned app’s privacy settings. More than two-thirds of U.S. states have banned the social media platform from being downloaded on government devices.
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