The British regulator does not exclude the possibility of imposing a fine on the social network of TikTok, amounting to £27 million, for irregularities in the processing of data protected by the law for underage users.
The British Information Commissioner's Office issued a notice of intent for TikTok with a "preliminary opinion" that the social network had violated the British Personal Data Protection Act from May 2018 to July 2020, an investigation into the company had begun as early as 2019.
According to ICO, TikTok was able to process data from children under the age of 13 without parental consent, did not provide users with easy information to understand and processed "special categories of personal data" such as the race or ethnicity of users without legal justification.
According to the representative of ICO, digital service providers have a legal obligation to protect the confidentiality of data, but, according to TikTok, this obligation has not been met, while ICO stressed that the opinion is preliminary and there is no formal finding at this stage of violation of the Data Protection Act or the imposition of a fine; however, if such violations are established, TikTok faces a fine of 4% of the annual income of the social network under the EU GDPR, the provisions of which the UK still adheres.
Now, TikTok has 30 days to answer -- if the company's representatives are convincing enough, ICO can reduce the fine or even give up the fine at all -- and TikTok has already expressed disagreement with ICO's findings and prepared a formal response.
Overall, according to ICO, the Office monitors 50 online platforms that process children ' s data; at present, six investigations into companies, according to the regulator ' s preliminary estimates, are "not sufficiently serious" with child protection responsibilities.
The TikTok platform is extremely popular among adolescents, with more than 1 billion users worldwide per month. In the past year, the Dutch regulator fined Euro750,000 to the social network for violating the confidentiality of the children in question and lack of legal information in Dutch.
Over the years, TikTok has successfully avoided Western regulators whose focus has been on American companies such as Facebook* and Google, but with the worsening global geopolitical situation, the situation has changed. Western authorities have expressed concern that the Chinese platform can provide Beijing with "backdoors" to monitor users from around the world, and in particular, in the era of President Donald Trump's time, the latter has tried to remove TikTok of the United States division, forcing them to sell it to more "good" companies.
* Listed on the list of voluntary associations and religious organizations in respect of which the court has taken a legally enforceable decision to abolish or prohibit activities on the grounds provided for in Federal Act No. 114-FZ of 25 July 2002 on countering extremist activities.