Social media giant TikTok recently faced a staggering fine of €345 million from Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) over allegations of failing to adequately protect the privacy of underage users. Following a 2020 investigation, TikTok was found to have various issues compromising the safety of young users.

The investigation revealed that TikTok’s initial account setup process automatically set teenage users’ accounts to public, exposing their content to anyone on or off the platform. TikTok subsequently changed this process in 2021, making accounts private by default for users aged 13 to 15.

Furthermore, the DPC highlighted concerns about TikTok’s family pairing feature, which allows parents or guardians to monitor their teen’s account and manage settings like direct messaging. The feature was found to lack proper verification of the relationship between the adult and the minor, thus compromising the safety of the young user.

The DPC also accused TikTok of using “dark patterns,” nudging users toward choosing privacy-intrusive options concerning their personal data. Allegedly, TikTok encouraged users to select less privacy-friendly options, as reported by The New York Times.

While the investigation did not find TikTok’s age verification system in violation of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it concluded that the platform had not done enough to ensure the protection of its young users. Consequently, the DPC imposed a hefty fine of €345 million, approximately $367 million US, along with an order for TikTok to align its data processing practices with the GDPR within three months.

TikTok responded to the decision, expressing their disagreement, particularly with the severity of the fine. They emphasized that the concerns highlighted by the DPC were addressed prior to the investigation, such as setting all accounts of users under 16 to private by default. Elaine Fox, TikTok’s head of privacy for Europe, mentioned that the platform would carefully assess the next steps in response to the fine and the order.

This is not the first time TikTok has faced penalties for privacy-related issues. Earlier this year, the platform was fined $15.9 million by the UK’s data protection authority for failing to remove underage users. In 2019, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, paid $5.7 million to settle charges from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning violations of data protection rules for children, related to its merger with

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