Does TikTok Violate Children's Privacy?

The United States, India, South Korea: More and more countries are concerned about TikTok. Is the Netherlands lagging behind in this?

This article was published on 28th July 2020 on Trouw in the Netherlands. Written by Rufus Kain.
Please find the English translation below.

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TikTok is not your average social media platform. Instead of the status updates on Facebook or the beautiful pictures on Instagram, the Chinese app is all about creative short videos. Children dance, mimic and juggle their way to the attention of their peers. Should parents be concerned about what will happen to their children's personal data?

However, according to the Foundation for Market Information Research (SOMI), which calls on parents worldwide to register for a collective claim. Despite previous warnings, TikTok violates privacy rights laid down in the European GDPR regulations. SOMI reported this in a press release on Monday, 27th July 2020.

“Children's data is not yet out on the street, but that says it all,” says Cor Wijtvliet, co-founder of the foundation. According to him, the Netherlands is not yet worried enough about TikTok. "The Dutch Data Protection Authority is conducting an investigation, but they were also quite late."

Banned in India

Wijtvliet compares the attention in the Netherlands with that in other parts of the world. In South Korea, TikTok was fined $ 160,000 earlier this month. The company had illegally collected data from minors, and had forwarded that data abroad without informing users, the British BBC News reports. Meanwhile, the United States is considering banning TikTok, and India has already done so.

SOMI's press release lists GDPR articles that TikTok allegedly violates. For example, minors could create an account without the consent of their parents easily. It would also be unclear which user data the app shares and with whom - the data could end up in China, among other places.

Privacy lawyer and professor Gerrit-Jan Zwenne has reservations about this list. "I see room for their action that they envision, but I wonder whether their story is legally sound." Especially when SOMI says that TikTok processes "sensitive personal data, such as location data" in violation of the GDPR, alarm bells go off at Zwenne. "The GDPR sets extra strict rules for data on health, religion, political preference, ethnicity, sexual preference - but not so much for location data."

Contribution cost: 17,50 euro

Wijtvliet responses that SOMI has drawn up the list of action points themselves. In fact, the foundation is only just starting on its research. Lawyers are also consulted. "Because something like that easily costs a few hundred thousand euros, we also ask 17.50 euros in advance from parents who register for the action," says Wijtvliet.

TikTok says in a response that user privacy and security are top priorities. “TikTok's terms of service are GDPR-compliant in Europe. User data is stored on servers in the US and Singapore. TikTok is not available in China. ”

Click here for the original article on (in Dutch)