According to reports on Tuesday, TikTok has been fined £12.7 million ($15.9 million) by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office for allowing around 1.4 million children under 13 to use the platform in violation of its own rules.
The Chinese-owned firm was found to have broken UK law by failing to obtain parental consent for children’s data usage, even after they had set up accounts despite being too young.
TikTok has disputed the ICO’s findings, which adds to the platform’s recent bans by Western governments over concerns of data accessibility by Beijing.
In response, TikTok stated that they will review the decision and consider their next steps, and also mentioned that they invest significantly in keeping under 13s off the platform, and have a 40,000-strong safety team working around the clock to maintain platform safety for its community.
“We will continue to review the decision and are considering next steps,” the company said in a statement.
“We invest heavily to help keep under 13s off the platform and our 40,000-strong safety team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe for our community,” it said.
TikTok, despite being warned of a potential £27 million fine by the ICO, expressed appreciation for the regulator’s decision to reduce the penalty.
The social media platform prohibits children under the age of 13 from creating accounts, but the ICO found that TikTok did not adequately verify this in the UK, resulting in up to 1.4 million children being affected in 2020.
As a result, these children’s data may have been used to track and profile them, possibly resulting in harmful and inappropriate content. Information Commissioner John Edwards emphasized the importance of protecting children in both the physical and digital worlds, and stated that TikTok did not comply with applicable laws.
“That means that their data may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their very next scroll,” Information Commissioner John Edwards said.
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” he said in a statement.