Europe has very strict online-privacy laws, as TikTok was reminded today. The China-based social media company was hit with a $368 million fine by Euro regulators for failing to protect the privacy of children.
It’s the first time the video-sharing platform has faced punishment for breaching European rules, the Associated Press reports.
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An investigation begun in September 2021 by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, the lead privacy regulator for Big Tech companies whose European headquarters are largely in Dublin, found that the sign-up process for teen users resulted in settings that made their accounts public by default. That allows anyone to view and comment on their videos. Those settings also posed a risk to kids younger than 13 access the platform even though they’re not allowed.
TikTok pointed out that the regulator’s criticisms focused on features and settings dating back three years and said in a statement that it disagrees with the decision, “particularly the level of the fine imposed.”
The company said it had made changes well before the investigation began, including making all accounts for teens under 16 private by default and disabling direct messaging for users ages 13-15.
The Irish watchdog also had examined TikTok’s measures to verify whether users are at least 13 but found the company didn’t break any rules.
The regulator is still carrying out a second investigation into whether TikTok complied with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation when it transferred users’ personal information to China, where its owner, ByteDance, is based.
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