TikTok fined $368 million in Europe for failing to protect children

A major European tech regulator fined TikTok €345 million ($368 million) for not adequately protecting children’s privacy. The Irish Data Protection Commission, which oversees TikTok in the EU, found the company violated privacy laws. They discovered that TikTok’s default settings in late 2020 didn’t do enough to protect children’s accounts.

The regulator pointed out that TikTok didn’t adequately inform children about these privacy risks and also employed “dark patterns” to lead users into sharing more of their personal information.

In another EU privacy law violation TikTok’s Family Pairing feature, meant for parental control, didn’t require verification of adults as actual parents or guardians overseeing a child’s account. This loophole allowed any adult to potentially weaken a child’s privacy safeguards, as per the regulator. TikTok introduced Family Pairing in April 2020, enabling adults to link their accounts with children’s accounts for screen time management, content control, and messaging limits.

The DPC gave TikTok three months to fix its mistakes and officially scolded the company. As quoted by CNN, in a blog post on Friday, the company said it respectfully disagreed with some parts of the ruling. Elaine Fox, TikTok’s European privacy chief wrote “Most of the decision’s criticisms are no longer relevant as a result of measures we introduced at the start of 2021.”

In early 2021, TikTok implemented modifications, such as setting both existing and new accounts to private by default for users aged 13 to 15, according to Fox. She stated later that month, “We will begin rolling out a redesigned account registration flow for new 16- and 17-year-old users” that will default to private settings.

TikTok didn’t specify if Family Pairing would verify an adult’s relationship with the child. They said they’d enhanced the feature with new tools and options and mentioned that the regulator didn’t find their age verification methods in violation of EU privacy laws.

In April, TikTok was fined in the UK for various data protection breaches, including mishandling children’s data.


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