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EU Launches Investigation Into TikTok Over Child Protection and Privacy Concerns

Introduction

TikTok has been in the news a lot since it merged with and took over Musically in 2018. Now boasting 3B downloads and 1B active users every month, the video and social media app has generated a lot of headlines—some which hail its genius, and others which point out the security concerns inherent in the program.

Which camp do you fall into? Maybe a little bit of both!

International governments are stepping into the conversation, too. Now the European Union is investigating TikTok over concerns about child protection and data privacy practices.

TikTok Versus Privacy

This is far from the first time that litigation has been brought against the Chinese-owned application, and even farther from TikTok’s first critique about how it handles user data. In the United States, for example, has a seasoned history of questioning TikTok’s ability to protect user data and even its potential detriment to national security.

Now the EU is getting involved.

The investigation is based on the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires online platforms to take certain steps to protect users and ensure responsible data practices. Thus, they are now looking into several aspects of TikTok, including:

  1. Age verification: Whether TikTok effectively verifies users’ ages to ensure children are not exposed to inappropriate content.

  2. Content moderation: Whether TikTok effectively removes harmful content like cyberbullying, violence, or eating disorders.

  3. Data transparency: Whether TikTok clearly informs users about how their data is collected and used.

  4. Screen time management: Whether TikTok offers tools for users to manage their screen time and limit their use of the app.

Essentially, the EU wants to ensure that TikTok is transparent about how it collects, uses, and stores user data; especially data from minors on the app. This includes concerns about how the platform handles data from European users, considering the specific data privacy regulations in the EU.

Are Our Children Protected?

The internet is a dangerous place…at least it can be, especially for the unsuspecting and those less savvy about their online privacy.

Regarding this lawsuit, the EU is worried that TikTok might not be doing enough to protect children from harmful content, online predators, and addictive algorithms that keep them scrolling for extended periods.

The outcome of this investigation could set a precedent for how other online platforms are regulated in the future. Consider the growing concern over children’s privacy across social media platforms:

  1. Facebook’s Messenger Kids app recently faced litigation under the American Federal Trade Commission.

  2. Given that Facebook shares a parent company with Instragram, that immediately puts both platforms under scrutiny.

  3. Google and YouTube have both been fined millions for collecting children’s data without parental consent.

  4. Many countries have already banned TikTok, either in certain situations or in totality.

In a world ruled by technology, it’s unsurprising that such concerns are on the rise…nor that more and more legislative bodies are dipping into the kitchen to help cook up protective measures for us, our children, and our data alike.

Conclusion

The investigation is ongoing, and no conclusions have been reached yet. If the EU finds that TikTok has violated the DSA, however, then the platform could face fines or be forced to make changes to its practices.

TikTok maintains that it is committed to child safety and data privacy and has already implemented several measures to address these concerns.

Why does all this matter? This investigation is part of a broader trend of increased scrutiny of social media platforms by governments around the world. We can keep ourselves, and our children, safe by enlightening ourselves about the platforms we use everyday—and the data protection laws constantly coming out, all over the world, to preserve our online security.

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