AMSTERDAM - The Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) imposed a 750,000 euro fine on social media platform TikTok for violating the privacy of Dutch children. The company was reprimanded because between May 2018 and July 2020 the privacy statement was only available in English. TikTok has objected to the fine.
According to the AP, it must be clear to all users what happens with their personal data. “By not offering their privacy statement in Dutch, TikTok failed to provide an adequate explanation of how the app collects, processes and uses personal data," AP said in a statement. The AP said it cannot be assumed that young children in the Netherlands are able to understand English.
"This is an infringement of privacy legislation, which is based on the principle that people must always be given a clear idea of what is being done with their personal data."
There were around 3.5 million TikTok users in the Netherlands in 2021, including over a million between the ages of six to nineteen. Users are able to post short videos of themselves on TikTok which they are able to edit through the app. The AP stated it is precisely because of the large percentage of children on TikTok that it is important that the privacy statement also be available in Dutch.
The AP already launched an investigation into TikTok in May 2020. The company released a Dutch version of the privacy statement last year. The fine was issued for the period before the privacy statement was available in Dutch.
The AP was only able to investigate TikTok for the period before it created a permanent office in the European Union. The company settled in Ireland after the AP began investigating it last year.
"It is now up to Ireland's Data Protection Commission to finish our investigation and issue a final ruling on the other possible violations of privacy investigated by the DPA," said Monique Verdier, the AP's deputy chair.
TikTok received criticism in the past for violating privacy and endangering children’s safety by facilitating access between child molesters and underage users. “TikTok then implemented a number of changes to make its app safer for children under the age of 16,” the AP said.
"One remaining issue is that children can still pretend to be older by filling in a different age when creating their account."