England’s former Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield has launched a “landmark case” against TikTok claiming that the platform illegally collects the personal information of its child users.
Longfield has launched the case on behalf of millions of children in the UK and the European Economic Area who have used TikTok since 25 March 2018. She alleges that the platform breaches the UK and EU children’s data protection law and her aim is to stop TikTok from processing the information of millions of children as well as to force it to delete all such existing data and pay compensation.
The case file claims that even though the app has a minimum age requirement of 13 approximately 42 percent of the TikTok users are aged between 8 years and 12 years.
We’re not trying to say that it’s not fun. Families like it. It’s been something that’s been really important over lockdown, it’s helped people keep in touch, they’ve had lots of enjoyment. But my view is that the price to pay for that shouldn’t be there – for their personal information to be illegally collected en masse, and passed on to others, most probably for financial gain, without them even knowing about it. The excessive nature of that collection is something that drove us to [challenge] TikTok rather than others. It’s the fact that for this [age] group of children it is the app of choice but more than 3.5 million children in the UK alone could have been affected.
Also, it’s the kind of information they’re collecting – it can’t possibly be appropriate for a video app, especially exact location, and probably face recognition as well.
TikTok allegedly takes children’s personal information without sufficient warning, transparency, or the necessary consent required by law. Moreover, the data is being hogged without parents and children knowing what is being done with their private information. According to Longfield, more than 3.5 million children in the UK alone could have been affected.
In response to this, TikTok’s spokesperson said,
Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok and we have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users, and our teenage users in particular. We believe the claims lack merit and intend to vigorously defend the action.
More details will be unwrapped as the matter moves forward.