World-famous TikTok has been penalised with a hefty €345 million fine for multiple EU data law breaches, after failing to protect teen users from the general public.

According to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), who is responsible for the regulation of TikTok across the EU, accounts belonging to users between the age of 13 and 17, were set to public. This meant that users within the age group were unknowingly exposing their content to the general public, also enabling them to receive comments from anyone across the globe.  

The investigation carried of by DPC also remarked that children under the age of 13 can easily create an account on the social media platform, even though it is prohibited The Chinese app has been dominating the social media market in recent years, with many joining the app during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back in July 2021, TikTok removed more than seven million accounts that were traced back to children under the age of 13. It was later that year that the app introduced several privacy settings, similar to app rival, Instagram.  By default, privacy settings for teens (until the age of 15), made accounts automatically private. Another featured setting was to not suggest under-16 accounts to other users. TikTok also offered the ‘family pairing’ setting, which allowed parents of teens to control their children’s accounts directly. 

The investigation highlighted how the family-pairing feature did not review whether the “adult paired with the child user was a parent or a guardian.”

The DPC scolding came as a surprise to TikTok administrators, given that the investigation was carried out between 31st July and 31st December 2020. Elaine Fox, TikTok’s head of privacy for Europe hit back stating that most criticism directed towards the app “is no longer relevant”.

Foreign media reports stated that the commission has been criticised in the past for being too slow in alerting apps with these concerns.

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