The UK’s data privacy watchdog has fined TikTok $15.9 million for data violations including the use of children’s data without parental consent. This is the latest example of tighter scrutiny TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are facing in the West as governments are concerned about risks that the app poses to data privacy and cybersecurity.
Sarah Kreps is a professor of government and director of the Tech Policy Institute at Cornell where she researches the intersection of international politics, technology and national security.
“The recent hearings on Capitol Hill and ongoing debates about a TikTok ban have shown just how difficult it is to balance privacy concerns with core democratic principles of free speech. The technical debates have also revealed the operational challenges of pulling off a TikTok ban and ensuring compliance to an extent that continued use doesn’t make a mockery of a ban.
“The UK data watchdog fine of TikTok for allowing children under 13 onto the site without parental consent and then misusing the data highlights a potentially fruitful alternative to either a ban or the current unregulated use of the platform. It’s not overly punitive for a company worth billions of dollars, but does act as a harbinger of additional measures the UK and other countries might take.
“The TikTok CEO had been fairly noncommittal in his recent comments about how the company would address privacy and parental consent concerns. These kinds of fines might provide additional incentive to find actual solutions to these concerns.”