Tech News : €345m Children’s Data Privacy Fine For TikTok

Video-focused social media platform TikTok has been fined €345m by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) over the privacy of child users.

The Processing of Personal Data 

The fine, as well as a reprimand (and an order requiring them to bring its data processing into compliance within three months) were issued in relation to how the company processed personal data relating to child users in terms of:

– Some of the TikTok platform settings, such as public-by-default settings as well as the settings associated with the ‘Family Pairing’ feature.

– Age verification in the registration process.

During its investigation into TikTok, The DPC also looked at transparency information for children. The DPC’s investigation focused on the period from 31 July 2020 and 31 December 2020.


Explained in basic terms, TikTok was fined because (according to the DPC’s findings) :

– The profile settings for child users accounts being set to public-by-default meant that anyone (on or off TikTok) could view the content posted by the child user. The DPC said this also posed risks to children under 13 who had gained access TikTok.

– The ‘Family Pairing’ setting allowed a non-child user (who couldn’t be verified as the parent or guardian) to pair their account to the child user’s account. The DPC says this enabled non-child users to enable Direct Messages for child users over 16, thereby posing a risk to child users.

– Child users hadn’t been provided with sufficient information transparency.

– The DPC said that TikTok had implemented “dark patterns” by “nudging users towards choosing more privacy-intrusive options during the registration process, and when posting videos.” 

TikTok Says…

TikTok has been reported as saying that it disagrees with the findings and the level of the fine. TikTok also said: “The criticisms are focused on features and settings that were in place three years ago, and that we made changes to well before the investigation even began, such as setting all under 16 accounts to private by default”.


This isn’t the first fine for TikTok in relation to this subject. For example, in July 2020, the company was fined $5.7 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for collecting data from minors without parental consent. Also, in April this year, TikTok was fined £12.7m by the ICO for allowing children under 13 to use the platform (in 2020).

The level of TikTok’s most recent fine, however, is not as much as the £1bn fine issued to Meta in May for mishandling people’s data in transfer between Europe and the US.

Banned In Many Countries

In addition to fines in the some of the countries where the TikTok app is allowed, for a mixture of reasons including worries about data privacy for young users, possible links to the Chinese state, incompatibility with some religious laws and some political situation(s) have resulted in TikTok being banned in Somalia, Norway, New Zealand, The Netherlands, India, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Australia, and Afghanistan.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Back in 2020, TikTok was experiencing massive growth as the most downloaded app in the world. It was also the year when former U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order aiming to ban TikTok in the United States, plus the year when the platform picked up its first big fine ($5.7 million) from the FTC (in the US) over collecting data from minors without parental consent.

As pointed out by TikTok, this latest, much larger European fine dates back to issues from around the same time, which TikTok argues it had already addressed before the DPC’s investigation began. This story highlights how important it is to create a safe environment in this digital society for children and young people who are frequent users of the web and particularly social media platforms. This story also highlights how important it is for businesses to pay particular attention to data regulations relating to children and young users and to review systems and processes with this mind to ensure maximum efforts are made maintain privacy and safety.

Furthermore, it is also an example of the importance of having regulators with ‘teeth’ that can impose substantial fines and generate bad publicity for non-compliance which can help provide the motivation for the big tech companies to take privacy matters more seriously. TikTok’s worries, however, aren’t just related to data privacy issues. Ongoing frosty political relations between China and the west mean that its relationship with the Chinese government is still in question and this, together with the bans of the app in many countries means it remains under scrutiny, perhaps more than other (US based) social media platforms.

Tech News : Opting Out Of AI-Targeting

The EU’s new Digital Services Act allows social media users to opt out of AI personalised content feeds based on relevance.

What Is The DSA? 

The Digital Services Act is a new EU Law designed to protect users. It applies to any digital company operating and serving the EU with “very large online platforms” (those with over 45 million EU users) and very large search engines subject to the toughest rules.

The DSA focuses on five key areas of user protection which are:

1. Illegal products. I.e. platforms will need to stop the sale of illegal products.

2. Illegal content. This means that platforms (e.g. social media platforms) need to take measures stop hate speech, child abuse and harassment, electoral interference and more, whilst safeguarding free speech and data protection.

3. Protection of children. This includes large online platforms and search engines having to take a wide range of measures to protect children, such as protection from being targeted with advertising based on their personal data or cookies, protecting their privacy, redesigning content “recommender systems” to reduce risks to children, and much more.

4. Racial and gender diversity. This means that companies (e.g. the large social media platforms) can’t target users with adverts based on personal date such as race, gender, and religion.

5. Banning so-called “dark patterns.” This means protecting consumers from manipulative practices designed to exploit their vulnerabilities or trick/manipulate them into buying things they don’t need or want and making it difficult for them to cancel. For example, this includes fake timers on deals, hiding information about signing up to a subscription and making subscription cancellation steps too complicated for users.

User Empowerment 

More on the matter of user empowerment, the DSA means that users (e.g. users of social media platforms) now need to be given clear information on why they are recommended certain information and have the right (and a clear way) to opt-out from recommendation systems based on profiling (tracking). This has led to the large social media platforms making changes. For example:

– Meta’s Facebook launching a chronological news Feeds tab (last July) to whereby users can see posts from their friends, groups, pages and more in chronological order, and no longer showing any “Suggested For You” posts. Also, since February, Meta’s apps, including Facebook, have stopped showing ads to users aged 13-17 based on their activity to the apps.

– Google’s YouTube stopping next video recommendations based on profiling for logged in users with the ‘watch history’ feature turned off.

– Instagram introducing a “Not Personalised” option instead of just an ‘Explore’ tab based on algorithmic content selections (personalised – “For you”).

– TikTok rolling out the option for users in Europe opt out from its personalised algorithm-based feed, i.e. as TikTok says, if users opt out of “For You” and “LIVE” feeds, it will instead show “popular videos from both the places where they live and around the world, rather than recommending content to them based on their personal interests”. Also, from July, TikTok stopped showing users in Europe aged 13-17 from being shown personalised ads based on their online activity.

– Snapchat has announced four new measures that it’s taking in the EU to comply with the DSA, including giving users “the ability to better understand why content is being shown to them and have the ability to opt out of a personalised Discover and Spotlight content experience.”

Amazon and Google

With the DSA also affecting very large search engines and companies like Amazon, a couple of examples of how they are complying include:

– Amazon creating a new channel for submitting notices against suspected illegal products and content.

– Google promising to increase data access to increase transparency, helping users to understand more about how Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play, and Shopping work.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Tech companies have known about the basic requirements of the DSA for three years and have had four months to comply with the act’s rules. Given the size of the “very large” social media companies and search engines, however, it has required some considerable work (some claiming thousands of staff had been involved), costs, and rethinking and re-organising. The DSA’s rules are far-reaching, while compliance means increased operational costs, e.g. due to necessary investment in technical infrastructure, legal fees, human resources for content moderation, and data governance systems. Also, the stricter regulations on data collection, content, and restrictions on targeting could limit ad-revenues and user-engagement. There’s also the added challenge of a greater workload for social media companies – e.g., with the need for more effective and continuous monitoring, user outreach, and updates.

That said, users may welcome the chance to essentially opt-out of being targeted and many may say that giving greater protection to users, especially children, is long overdue and that legislation appears to have been necessary to make change happen. For the very large tech companies, although they may not be happy with parts of the DSA, they have recognised that compliance is now crucial for sustained market access and legal operation within the EU and the fines for non-compliance are very steep and something (along with the bad publicity) they’d like to avoid (6% of turnover and potential costly suspension of the service).

The new rules have only just come into force, so it remains to be seen how the large tech companies fare going forward in a fast-evolving tech landscape that now has the added complications of AI.

Featured Article: More People Follow ‘TikTok News’

With the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023 showing TikTok now being the source of news for 20 per cent of 18–24-year-olds at the expense of news websites and apps, we look at where most people now get their news from and the reasons why.

The Report 

The Reuters Institute report is based on the findings of a survey of more than 93,000 people in 46 countries, including the UK, conducted by YouGov in January and February of this year.

Some Key Findings

Some of the key findings about where people young people and others now get their news from are:

– Interest in news stories has declined, there are now high levels of selective news avoidance (36 per cent) i.e., people actively and regularly avoid news (to avoid bad news).

– Trust in the news has fallen and more than half of us (56 per cent) now worry about being able to distinguish between fake and real news on the Internet.

– Around only a fifth of respondents (22 per cent) now say they prefer to start their news journeys with a news website or app (down 10 percentage points since 2018).

– One fifth of young people get their news from TikTok.

– For news topics TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat users now pay more attention to celebrities and social media influencers than to journalists or media companies.

– Consumption of traditional media, such as TV and print, is falling in most markets, with online and social consumption not making up the gap.

– Younger people have a weaker connection with news brands’ own websites and apps than before and prefer to access news via side-door routes such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators.

– Although Facebook is still one of the most-used social networks, shifting its focus away from news (and competition) has meant that its influence on journalism and popularity as a news source is declining.

– Whereas on Facebook and Twitter, news media and journalists are still central to the conversation, audiences say they pay more attention to celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities than journalists in networks like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat (the social networks more popular with young people).

In short, people are moving away from Facebook, news apps and websites, with many young people now preferring to get their news from TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, paying more attention to what influencers and celebrities say about it.


The declining engagement with traditional networks, e.g. Facebook and the rise of TikTok and a range of other video-led networks, along with the preference for the views of influencers and celebrities is likely to be the result of the influence of the habits of the youngest generations. This is because they have grown up with social media and as a result, naturally pay more attention to influencers or celebrities than they do to journalists, even for news. This may also explain why many young people prefer to access news via ‘side-door routes’ such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators rather than heading straight for news websites and apps.

As the Reuters Institute director Rasmus Neilsen explains, “Younger generations increasingly eschew direct discovery for all but the most appealing brands” and “They have little interest in many conventional news offers oriented towards older generations’ habits, interests, and values, and instead embrace the more personality-based, participatory, and personalised options offered by social media, often looking beyond legacy platforms to new entrants”. 

Also, the current squeeze on household spending has meant that people have been rethinking how much they can afford to spend on news media.

Facebook’s declining use for news isn’t just because it’s moving away from news but is also down to strong competition from YouTube and youth-focused networks like TikTok.

A general mistrust of news and a lack of confidence about being able to spot fake new could be due to influences like criticism of the news media, which is often driven by politicians and facilitated by social media.

As for declining interest in news and ‘selective avoidance’ of news, these can be attributed to (probably since the pandemic), an abundance of bad news on constant-repeat e.g., the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis, thereby causing people to avoid bad news to protect their own wellbeing and mental health.


As highlighted in Reuters Report, podcasts are still popular, and their usage has grown by one-third since 2018. Although they are a source of news, the news podcasts compete for attention with lifestyle and specialist shows (some of which also deal with news), and the listeners tend to be richer, better educated, and younger.

Where Do People Get Their News From? 

According to YouGov figures, although most UK people now get their news from the national TV news (44 per cent) and news websites (40 per cent but declining), social media is where just over a quarter (26 per cent) of people get their news). An Ofcom report from 2022 confirms that younger age groups are more likely to use the internet and social media for news, whereas their older counterparts favour print, radio, and TV. The report shows that the reach of print/online newspapers has seen a large decrease from 2020 i.e. 47 per cent to 2022 (38 per cent), and the report states that social media is overtaking traditional channels for news among teens, e.g. with TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube being their top three most used sources for news.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The shifting landscape of news consumption highlighted in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023 has significant implications for various stakeholders in the business world. Publishers, traditional media outlets, social media platforms, and advertisers all need to adapt to the changing preferences and behaviours of news consumers, particularly among younger generations.

For publishers and traditional media, the report emphasises the decline in interest and trust in news stories, as well as the decreasing preference for news websites and apps. This highlights the need for innovative approaches to news delivery and engagement to capture the attention of younger audiences. Investing in video-led networks, exploring personalised and participatory options, and leveraging social media platforms can help reach a broader audience.

Social media platforms, while still influential, face challenges in the evolving news landscape. The decline of Facebook as a news source, primarily driven by competition from platforms like TikTok and YouTube, indicates the importance of diversifying content offerings and adapting to changing user preferences. Platforms must strike a balance between user-generated content and news media to remain relevant and trustworthy sources of information.

Advertisers need to reassess their strategies and platforms for reaching their target audiences. With young people paying more attention to influencers and celebrities on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, there is an opportunity to collaborate with these popular figures to promote their products or services. Advertisers should also consider leveraging podcasts, which have seen growth and appeal to a more affluent, educated, and younger demographic.

Overall, the report highlights the need for businesses to stay informed about the changing news consumption habits and preferences of their target audiences. Adapting to the rise of video-led networks, social media influencers, and personalised content can help companies stay relevant and effectively engage with consumers. By embracing new platforms and approaches, businesses can navigate the evolving news landscape and leverage these changes to their advantage.