TikTok was fined £12.7 million ($15.9 million) by the UK’s data regulator on Tuesday for allowing up to 1.4 million children under 13 to use its social media platform in violation of its own rules.
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Chinese-owned firm violated UK law by failing to obtain parental or guardian consent to use the children’s data after they had set up accounts despite being too young.
TikTok has disputed the ICO’s finding, which adds to its woes following a wave of bans on the platform’s use on official devices by Western governments, owing to concerns that the data could be accessed by Beijing.
“We will continue to review the decision and are considering next steps,” the company said in a statement.
“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,” it said.
TikTok nevertheless welcomed a decision by the ICO to slash the fine from £27 million, which the regulator had previously warned it might impose.
The popular video-sharing platform’s terms of service do not permit children under 13 to set up accounts.
But the ICO said TikTok had failed to carry out adequate checks to stop that happening in Britain, and up to 1.4 million children were affected in 2020.
“That means that their data may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their very next scroll,” Information Commissioner John Edwards said.
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” he said in a statement.
“TikTok did not abide by those laws.”