TikTok, fined 345 million for irregularities on the privacy of minors

The company said it disagreed with several aspects of the decision, particularly regarding the size of the fine

The Republic of Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has imposed a series of administrative fines on TikTok amounting to a total of €345 million, after finding that the company breached the General Data Protection Regulation ( GDPR) in the processing of information concerning minors. In an official statement, the DPC explained that the investigation, which began in 2021, revealed a series of violations by TikTok regarding privacy laws, found in the period between July 2020 and December 2020. These violations mainly concerned the lack of protection of data belonging to minor users.

The supervisory authority highlighted how the app’s default settings made children’s accounts accessible to the public, thus exposing the content they shared not only to users of the platform, but also to those who were not part of it. Among other irregularities found, there was also a feature called “family pairing,” which allowed the accounts of minors to be linked to those of adults who had not completed the verification process as parents or legal guardians, as well as deficiencies in the system of age verification.

Furthermore, the DPC noted that a supervisory authority in Berlin had requested the inclusion of a “further finding of violation” of the fairness principles of the GDPR, referring to so-called “dark patterns,” i.e. schemes designed to push users to select options that most compromised their privacy, both when recording and sharing videos. TikTok has been given a period of three months to adapt its data processing to current regulations. In response to this decision, TikTok defended its actions, noting that “much of the criticism leveled in the decision is no longer relevant, thanks to measures introduced in early 2021, a few months before the investigation began.” The company also stated that it disagreed with several aspects of the decision, particularly regarding the size of the fine, and expressed its intention to provide further clarification as it evaluates its next steps.