(Reuters) – Britain’s data watchdog said on Tuesday it had fined TikTok 12.7 million pounds ($15.9 million) for breaching data protection law including by using the personal data of children aged under 13 without parental consent.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) estimated that TikTok allowed as many as 1.4 million UK children under 13 to use its platform in 2020, even though it sets 13 as the minimum age to create an account.
The ICO said the data breaches occurred between May 2018 and July 2020, with the Chinese-owned video app not having done enough to check who was using the platform and remove the underage children who were.
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. TikTok did not abide by those laws,” UK Information Commissioner John Edwards said.
Children’s data may have been used to track and profile them, potentially presenting them with harmful or inappropriate content, he added.
A TikTok spokesperson said the company disagreed with the ICO’s decision but was pleased the fine had been reduced from the possible 27 million pounds set out by the ICO last year.
“We invest heavily to help keep under 13s off the platform and our 40,000 strong safety team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe for our community,” the spokesperson said.
“We will continue to review the decision and are considering next steps.”
The ICO’s fine follows moves by Western governments and institutions in recent weeks, including Britain, to bar usage of TikTok on official devices over security concerns.
($1 = 0.7996 pounds)