TikTok is facing a hefty fine of 345 million euros, equivalent to approximately $370 million, for its infringement of privacy laws related to handling children’s data in the European Union.
This significant penalty was announced by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) of Ireland, which serves as the primary regulator for numerous global tech companies, including TikTok, owing to their regional headquarters’ location in Ireland.
EU privacy laws were breached between July 31, 2020, and December 31, 2020. During this period, TikTok was found to have violated several key privacy regulations.
One notable transgression was setting the accounts of users under the age of 16 to “public” by default. Furthermore, TikTok failed to verify the parental or guardian status of users connected through the “family pairing” feature.
In response to these issues, TikTok took measures to address these concerns, including enhancing parental controls within the family pairing feature in November 2020 and changing the default setting for users under 16 to “private” in January 2021.
TikTok disagreed with the decision, particularly contesting the size of the fine, and argued that most of the issues raised had been resolved with these proactive changes.
The DPC has granted TikTok a three-month grace period to rectify any remaining non-compliance with privacy regulations identified during the investigation.
Furthermore, a separate inquiry is ongoing to examine TikTok’s practices regarding transferring personal data to China and its adherence to EU data protection laws.
Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduced in 2018, regulators can impose fines of up to 4% of a company’s global revenue.
The DPC has not hesitated to levy substantial fines against major tech players, such as the 2.5 billion euros collectively imposed on Meta in recent years.
As TikTok continues evolving and adapting its privacy measures, the company plans to update its privacy materials to clarify the distinction between public and private accounts. For new users aged 16 to 17, private accounts will be pre-selected upon registration, starting later this month.