TikTok has been fined 12.7 million pounds ($15.9 million) by the UK’s data protection watchdog on Tuesday for violating data protection law, including using the personal data of children under the age of 13 without parental consent.
The Information Commissioner’s Office estimated that TikTok allowed up to 1.4 million UK children under the age of 13 to use its platform in 2020, despite the fact that the minimum age to create an account is 13.
The data breaches occurred between May 2018 and July 2020, according to the ICO, with the Chinese-owned video app failing to do enough to check who was using the platform and remove any underage children who were.
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. TikTok did not abide by those laws,” UK Information Commissioner John Edwards said.
He went on to say that children’s data could have been used to track and profile them, potentially exposing them to harmful or inappropriate content.
A TikTok spokesperson stated that the company disagreed with the ICO’s decision but was relieved that the fine had been reduced from the potential 27 million pounds set by the ICO last year.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
“We will continue to review the decision and are considering next steps.”
The ICO’s fine follows recent moves by Western governments, including the United Kingdom, to prohibit the use of TikTok on official devices due to security concerns.