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TikTok, the prominent video-sharing platform, is gearing up for a legal battle, according to a Bloomberg report, in response to a €345 million ($363 million) data privacy fine and a compliance order issued by EU regulators. The penalties came as a result of concerns over the protection of personal data belonging to teenage users.

Legal battle in the making

TikTok, a subsidiary of ByteDance Ltd., is refusing to accept this substantial penalty. The company has lodged an appeal in the European Union’s General Court challenging the fine. Additionally, TikTok is contesting a local order issued by its lead data regulator in Ireland. This local order calls for the removal of any “deceptive or manipulative” practices that could potentially undermine user privacy.

Probing child safeguarding practices

The €345 million fine comes after a thorough examination of TikTok’s child safeguarding practices. TikTok, known for its viral dance challenges and having over 1 billion users worldwide, is now under scrutiny, along with other social media giants, including Meta and Elon Musk’s X.

The European Union has issued warning letters to these platforms, demanding prompt action to combat the spread of disinformation.

What triggered the fine

The Irish Data Protection Commission imposed the €345 million fine on TikTok last month. The investigation revealed that TikTok had failed to protect minors against unnecessary data processing and lacked transparency. The probe focused on a five-month period from July 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020.

During this time, TikTok’s data processing practices were found to be in violation of GDPR rules, specifically those aimed at safeguarding children aged 13 to 17.

EU-wide concerns

While the Irish data watchdog is responsible for all TikTok investigations under GDPR, this particular breach had broader implications. Thus, the European Data Protection Board, a panel of European regulators enforcing data protection laws, had to approve the final decision.

TikTok intends to appeal the fine and compliance order, refraining from further comments. The European Data Protection Board and the Irish data watchdog have chosen not to comment on the ongoing legal proceedings.

The European panel, comprising representatives from 30 European countries, has expressed specific concerns about how TikTok encourages children to create public accounts and automatically makes their videos publicly accessible.

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