The European Union imposed a fine of $368 million dollars (345 million euros) on TikTok Friday for failing to protect minors' data. Ireland's Data Protection Commission decided to punish the Chinese social network after conducting investigations in September 2021 that determined the platform had violated two important rules to protect children's privacy.
As explained by NBC, the analysis revealed that when a teenage user registered on the platform, a public account was created, which allowed any citizen to view and comment on their videos. This default setting also allowed children under 13 to access the platform even if the social network, in its guidelines, did not permit them from joining.
The "family pairing" function was also not working properly. The feature allowed parents to manage their teenagers' accounts was deemed to be not strict enough, "allowing adults to turn on direct messaging for users aged 16 and 17 without their consent." This caused minors to opt for more "privacy intrusive" options when on the social network and uploading videos, said the Irish Data Protection Commission.
It is the first time that European lawmakers have imposed a penalty on the Chinese social network that, for the moment, faces several restrictions and sanctions in the U.S., including one that prohibits the use of TikTok on federal devices as to not undermine "national security."
TikTok refutes the E.U. fine
The Chinese platform said it did not agree with the fine imposed by the European Union. In a statement published by Elaine Fox, the company's European director of privacy, the social network said that these problems dated back three years and had already been solved:
Most of the criticism we had addressed well before the investigation even began, such as setting all 13-15 year old accounts to private by default.
In addition, the social network said it had long focused on creating experiences suitable for different age groups. In this way, features such as direct messages are not available to teens. In addition, there are also tools such as screen time management that help parents control minors' use of the application. The following was stated by TikTok during in March 2022, per the AP:
We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users. We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.