TikTok Issues: Data Privacy and Children’s Rights Violations

TikTok issues

TikTok issues have been the talk of the world lately, especially data privacy and children’s rights violations.

  • Prominent countries, specifically the U.S., are fearing China’s access to their citizens’ data.
  • Several Governments have found TikTok’s lack of adequate security for children and minors concerning.

Lately, numerous countries are banning TikTok citing security concerns. It comes down to two main reasons: data privacy and the lack of protection for children and minors. The application has 1.534 billion users out of which 1 billion are monthly active users. So, you can see the amount of data the app is collecting regardless of users’ gender, age, occupation, etc.

TikTok Issues: Data Privacy

For the sake of brevity, let’s focus on Sino-US TikTok issues regarding data privacy. The Biden administration is seeking to ban its use, unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sells its stake to an American company.

While this dispute does seem like another point of contention in the Sino-American rivalry, the concerns may not be without merit. TikTok has been denying any ties linking it to the CCP since before the Trump administration’s attempt at banning the app back in 2020.  Instead, it has invested close to $1.5 billion to ensure the protection of sensitive U.S. users’ data. However, this has not stopped its employees from spying on reporters using location data, to track down the source of leaked information in December 2022.

We must point out that despite what The Guardian has reported in 2019, there’s little publicly available evidence of TikTok’s engagement in narrative control on the behalf of the Chinese Community Party (CCP) or any other clandestine connections to China.

TikTok Issues: Children’s Rights Violations

In Europe, Governments are none too happy with TikTok issues concerning children and minors. In fact, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that TikTok allowed an estimated 1.4 million children under 13 to use the app in 2020, in contradiction to its own policies that would prevent young children from creating an account. As a result, the ICO has fined TikTok roughly $16 million due to multiple data protection violations, including the unlawful use of children’s personal data and that of children under the age of 13 without parental consent.

In the Netherlands, the Foundation Take Back Your Privacy has raised a case against TikTok, alleging that it exploits the personal data of children in violation of their privacy and data protection rights. The claim alleges that TikTok is in violation of:

  • The fundamental rights to privacy and protection of personal data,
  • The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Dutch and European consumer law.

It also argues that TikTok’s mass processing of children’s personal data has no lawful basis because:

  1. The consent obtained by TikTok is defective
  2. The processing cannot be based on legitimate interests to improve the platform
  3. The Processing is not necessary for performance of TikTok’s service

Final Thoughts

I’m a firm believer in if you dislike something, don’t engage with it. However, I do believe that big tech needs to be held accountable when they break their terms of service. While I hold parents/guardians accountable for whatever media their children are consuming, big tech (TikTok is but the tip of the iceberg in this regard) should be more mindful of its users. To be fair, there is political interest in banning TikTok but there are also concerns concerning the lack of appropriate security for the children.

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