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TikTok under investigation over child data use

UK inquiry looking at whether video-sharing app breaches data protection law.


The video-sharing app TikTok is under investigation in the UK for how it handles the personal data of its young users, and whether it prioritises the safety of children on its social network.

As well as general concerns about how private data was collected, Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said there were concerns about how the open messaging system allowed any adult to message any child.

She said the company was potentially violating the general data protection regulation (GDPR) which “requires the company to provide different services and different protections for children”.

In February, Bytedance, the Chinese firm that owns TikTok, was fined a record ($5.7m) £4.2m for illegally collecting personal information from children under 13. The FTC said the company had previously been aware that “a significant percentage of users were younger than 13”, the age at which US laws mandate strict data protections, “and received thousands of complaints from parents that their children under 13 had created accounts”. was the previous name of TikTok.

Bytedance, a private startup based in Beijing, has a valuation of $75bn, based primarily on the extraordinary growth of TikTok, and its Chinese equivalent, Douyin. The app is popular among teenagers and pre-teens for its combination of music and meme-based humour.

A company can be fined up to €20m, or 4% of revenue, whichever is higher, for violating the GDPR. As a private company, Bytedance does not have to disclose revenue so it is unknown how high such a fine could be.