The TikTok logo displayed on the screen of a smartphone.
European regulators hit social media platform TikTok with a $368 million fine for lapses in children’s privacy.
It’s the first time the video-sharing app has been penalized under Europe’s data privacy rules.
But TikTok’s head of privacy argued that “most of the decision’s criticisms are no longer relevant.”
European regulators imposed a $368 million fine on TikTok, the first time the popular video-sharing platform has faced penalties for violating the EU’s strict data privacy regulations, the Associated Press reported.
The fine was issued by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which serves as the leading privacy regulator for major tech companies based in Dublin.
An investigation found significant lapses in the protection of children’s privacy, it said.
One of the key findings was that the default settings for teen accounts made them public, allowing unrestricted access for anyone to view and comment on videos.
The investigation also said that the “family pairing” feature, designed to let parents manage children’s account settings, was not strict enough. This allowed adults to enable direct messaging for users aged 16 and 17 without their consent, potentially compromising their privacy.
The platform also nudged teenage users toward more “privacy intrusive” options during the sign-up and video posting process, it said.
TikTok disagreed with the regulatory decision.
The company argued that many of the features and settings criticized by the regulator had been addressed before the investigation began in 2021, AP reported. They said they had already made accounts for users under 16 private by default and had disabled direct messaging for users aged 13-15.
Elaine Fox, TikTok’s head of privacy for Europe, wrote in a blog post that “most of the decision’s criticisms are no longer relevant as a result of measures we introduced at the start of 2021.”
This isn’t the first time that TikTok has been fined over data protection concerns.
Data privacy regulators in the UK issued a £12.7 million ($15.7 million) fine to TikTok in April for mishandling children’s data and breaching protections for young users’ personal information, AP reported.