Tiktok is the target of yet another data privacy probe

by Wei Sheng

A Dutch privacy regulator said Friday it would investigate how short video app Tiktok handles the data of teenagers and children on the platform, Reuters is reporting.

Why it matters:The popular social media app, owned by Beijing-based Bytedance, is under increasing scrutiny in overseas markets, including the United States and the European Union, over its data protection practices.

  • The EU has the world’s toughest rules on protecting people’s online privacy known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Details:The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) announced Friday that it would examine whether Tiktok clearly states how it uses data and whether “parental consent is required for Tiktok to collect, store and use children’s personal data.”

  • GDPR requires companies to obtain consent from users’ parents if they are under 16 years of age. The regulation also bans any collection of data from children under the age of 13.
  • “For many users this is an important way of staying in touch with friends and spending time together, particularly during the current coronavirus crisis,” the DPA said in a statement. “The rise of Tiktok has led to growing concerns about privacy.”
  • Tiktok said it was cooperating with Dutch authorities.
  • “TikTok’s top priority is protecting our users’ privacy and safety, especially our younger users,” the company told Reuters.
  • The DPA said the initial results of the probe are expected later this year.

Context: In March, Tiktok announced a “transparency center” in its US office to address concerns over the security and privacy of its product.

  • The company also hired cybersecurity veteran Roland Cloutier as its chief information security officer. Cloutier was the chief security officer at payroll-services firm ADP, according to his Linkedin profile.
  • Tiktok has seen massive growth and has become particularly popular among teens. The app, together with its Chinese version Douyin, was downloaded more than 738 million times in 2019, making it the second most-downloaded app in the world.
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