The UK inquiry is reportedly investigating how TikTok handles safety and personal data of users under the age of 13 on its platform. The UK's probe into TikTok's safety and data handling of underage users started in February after the US federal trade commission (FTC) imposed $5.7 million fine over the violation of federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires Internet services to get parents' consent before collecting personal information from underage users.
According to the Guardian, information commissioner Elizabeth Denham told a parliamentary committee that the investigation started in February and the commission is now examining how TikTok collects private and concerns about TikTok's open messaging system, which may allow adult TikTok users to contact childrens.
"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,” information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said.
The UK probe into TikTok will also investigate if China's ByteDance-owned popular video-sharing app also infringes upon the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR makes it mandatory for Internet companies to make room for special protections for underage users. The GDPR also requires internet companies to provide underage users with different services than adults.
In the US, TikTok (previously known as Musical.ly) raised concerns among many parents, especially after news reports of adult predators using the app to contact children. Profile information of underage users often included email addresses as well as a child’s name, age, school and picture. Until October 2016, one of the app’s features allowed users to find nearby users within a 50-mile radius.
The FTC found that the app was in a violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection At (COPPA) as it failed to seek parental consent from underage users before collecting personal data such as name, email address among others. Following the FTC's action in the US, TikTok started restricting underage users from using the app.
“We cooperate with organizations such as the ICO to provide relevant information about our product to support their work. Ensuring data protection principles are upheld as a top priority for TikTok,” ByteDance said in a statement to the Guardian.