The short video-sharing app TikTok is under investigation in the UK for how it handles the personal data of the young users in the country, as well as to check whether it prioritises the safety of children on its social network. The Guardian reported that Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner in the UK, told a parliamentary committee that an investigation into the matter began in February this year. The probe reportedly followed the $5.7 million (approx Rs 39 crores) fine that the US Federal Trade Commission imposed on Bytedance, the Chinese firm that owns TikTok, for illegally collecting personal information from children under 13.
“We are looking at the transparency tools for children. We’re looking at the messaging system, which is completely open, we’re looking at the kind of videos that are collected and shared by children online. We do have an active investigation into TikTok right now, so watch this space,” said Denham. She raised concerns on how private data was collected and how the open messaging system allowed any adult to message any child. She noted that the company was potentially violating the general data protection regulation (GDPR) which “requires the company to provide different services and different protections for children.”
The news comes a day after similar privacy concerns were raised by Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor, in the Lok Sabha. Speaking during the Zero Hour, the politician alleged that TikTok is illegally collecting data of Indian users and sending it to China through the wholly state-owned China Telecom. Terming the issue as a matter of national security, Tharoor said that the data leakage is happening due to the absence of a robust comprehensive data protection framework.
“In the age of smartphones, apps, social media, and the Internet, India is generating mind-boggling data, and it can be exploited by the vested interests to engage in profiling, to make profits and for political control. Recently, the federal regulators in the US slapped a fine of $5.7 million on the social media app TikTok for illegally collecting data on children,” Tharoor was quoted as saying. He urged the government to introduce a comprehensive legal framework to protect fundamental rights to privacy and save the democracy of the country. TikTok, however, refuted the allegations levelled by the Congress MP, calling the claims “simply untrue”.