A preliminary finding from British authorities has determined that TikTok may have failed to protect children’s privacy according to law.

According to Bloomberg, the Office of Information Commissioner (ICO) alleged that TikTok may have skipped obtaining parental permission from youngsters who use the platform. The video-sharing platform is also accused of processing some data illegally. The regulator believes that TikTok’s violations occurred between May 2018 and July 2020. 

A potential fine of $28.9 million is awaiting TikTok for the breaches. The ICO said on September 26 that it contacted the viral video-sharing platform about the matter. The privacy watchdog nonetheless promised to carefully consider any representations from TikTok before making a final decision.

John Edwards from the Information Commissioner says, “We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections.”

Although the conclusions are preliminary, the New York Times notes that the notification sent to TikTok formally signals an oncoming fine.

A TikTok spokesperson denied the findings, “While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course.”

According to Bloomberg, Europe has intensified its investigation into TikTok’s handling of children’s data. Another investigation into the suspected misuse of child data by TikTok is also nearing completion in Ireland. 

In the U.S., the video-sharing app was accused of failing to safeguard the privacy of younger users in the past. In 2019, Musical.ly, the platform’s operators, agreed to pay a fine of $5.7 million to resolve allegations that they had broken the U.S. federal legislation protecting children’s privacy online.

This July, a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved a measure to raise the age at which children receive special online privacy safeguards to 16. Following that, businesses like TikTok and Snapchat are prohibited from targeting them with advertisements.

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