TikTok could face a £27 million fine after an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The ICO found that the company may have breached UK data protection law by failing to protect children’s privacy when using its social media platform.

The ICO has issued TikTok Inc and TikTok Information Technologies UK Limited with a ‘notice of intent’ – a legal document that precedes a potential fine. 

The notice sets out the ICO’s provisional view that TikTok breached UK data protection law between May 2018 and July 2020.

The ICO investigation found the fast-growing company may have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent; failed to provide proper information to its users in a concise, transparent and easily understood way; and processed special category data, without legal grounds to do so.

The findings are provisional and the ICO says it will ‘carefully consider any representations from TikTok before taking a final decision’.

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

“Companies providing digital services have a legal duty to put those protections in place, but our provisional view is that TikTok fell short of meeting that requirement.

“I’ve been clear that our work to better protect children online involves working with organisations but will also involve enforcement action where necessary. 

“In addition to this, we are currently looking into how over 50 different online services are conforming with the Children’s code and have six ongoing investigations looking into companies providing digital  services who haven’t, in our initial view, taken their responsibilities around child safety seriously enough.”

A spokesperson for TikTok told BusinessCloud: “This Notice of Intent, covering the period May 2018 – July 2020, is provisional and as the ICO itself has stated, no final conclusions can be drawn at this time.

“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.” 

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