TikTok is under investigation for the way it handles the data it collects about children, the Information Commissioner’s Office has confirmed.
The video-sharing app has become one of the fastest-growing social media apps. Although it doesn’t reveal its usage figures, estimates put it at around 500 million regular users, many of them young people.
According to Elizabeth Dunham, the information commissioner, there are concerns over the Chinese app’s compliance with the general data protection regulation (GDPR). The new law requires companies to place special measures in order when dealing with children’s data.
She also expressed concern that TikTok’s platform allows any adult to openly message a child.
‘We are looking at the transparency tools for children,’ Denham told a parliamentary committee this week.
‘We’re looking at the messaging system, which is completely open, we’re looking at the kind of videos that are collected and shared by children online. We do have an active investigation into TikTok right now, so watch this space,’ she said.
Denham said the investigation started in February, at the same time as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) kicked off a similar investigation in the United States.
A breach of GDPR can carry a fine of up to €20m (£17.9m), or 4% of revenue and Bytedance (the company that owns TikTok) has already fallen foul of data laws once. It was fined £4.2m for illegally collecting the personal information from children under 13.
Moreover, a BBC investigation has found that young users are pressured into sending money to their favourite influencers on the app.
The BBC writes: ‘Claire (not her real name) told BBC News she regretted spending £100 to obtain her favourite TikTok star’s phone number – and he had never answered his phone.’
What is TikTok?
TikTok is an app that’s kind of like the spiritual successor to Vine.
It allows user to make short videos, edit them with music and special effects, and share within the app.
It was the world’s most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2018, with an estimated 45.8 million downloads.
The slogan is ‘Make Every Second Count’… Which makes sense given the videos are normally only a few seconds long.
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