Dutch data protection authority fines TikTok over privacy failure

Popular video app TikTok has been fined 750,000 Euros by the Netherlands’ data protection watchdog for only offering a privacy statement in English, meaning many native Dutch-speaking children would not have been able to understand what it meant.

The country’s’ Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens or DPA) said that the Chinese-owned app had ‘failed to provide an adequate explanation’ of how it collects, processes and uses personal data.

“This is an infringement of privacy legislation, which is based on the principle that people must always be given a clear idea of what is being done with their personal data,” it said in a statement. TikTok is enormously popular with young people in The Netherlands, with around 3.5 million users.

It follows an investigation last year by the authority into concerns over the privacy of children who, under the law, are treated as an ‘especially vulnerable category’. “They are less aware of the consequences of their actions, including the implications of sharing personal data on social media – this is why children are given additional protections under the data protection legislation.”

The DPA says it recognises the changes that TikTok has made, including more control for parents, to keep users safe from those who use it ‘for the wrong reasons’, for example bullying and grooming.

But one remaining issue, it added, is that children can still pretend to be older by putting a different age when creating an account, and in doing so putting themselves at greater risk.

‘Children re less aware of the consequences of their actions’

“Parents now also have more control over their child’s account,” said the DPA. They can manage their child’s privacy settings through their own account and the ‘Family Pairing’ feature.

Monique Verdier, Deputy Chair of the DPA, said: “We’re happy that parents can now control the privacy settings of their children’s account from their own phone. Despite these changes, we would encourage parents to talk regularly with their children about what they do online. Take an interest in the videos they make and talk with them about the way they and other users respond to each other on TikTok.”

Click here for the full text of the DPA’s decision.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese media company Bytedance, has lodged an objection to the fine.

Author: Simon Weedy

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