TikTok hit with consumer, child safety and privacy complaints in Europe – TechCrunch

Tiktok faces a new round of regulatory complaints in Europe, where consumer protection groups have filed a series of coordinated complaints alleging multiple violations of EU law.

The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) has filed a complaint with the European Commission against the video sharing site and network of consumer protection authorities, while consumer organizations from 15 countries have alerted their national authorities and have asked them to investigate the huge conduct of social media Urged to do, BEUC said today.

Complaints include claims of inappropriate words, including in relation to copyright and Ticketcock’s virtual currency; Concerns are being raised about the type of children on the platform; And accusations of misleading data processing and privacy practices.

Details of the alleged violations are set out in two reports related to the complaints: a covering Issues with TikTok’s approach to consumer protection, And focused on another Data security and privacy.

Child safety

On child safety, the report accuses Tittock of failing to protect children and adolescents from hidden advertising and “potentially harmful” content on its platform.

“TikTok’s marketing provides companies who want to advertise on the app, who contribute to the spread of hidden marketing. For example users are triggered to participate in branded hashtag challenges where they are encouraged to create content for specific products. As popular influencers are often the starting point for such challenges, typically driven by business intentions for users. Tikotok is potentially failing to conduct due diligence when it comes to protecting children from inappropriate content such as videos showing suggestive content that are only a few scrolls away, ”BYUC writes in a press release.

Tiktok has already encountered one Regulatory intervention in Italy this year In response to child safety concerns – after the death of a ten-year-old girl in the country. Local media had reported that the child died after triggering an emergency intervention by the DFA after participating in a ‘black out’ challenge on TTTalk.

Tickcock agreed shortly thereafter Reopening an age gate To verify the age of every user in Italy, however, the test only asks the user to input a date to confirm their age to make it easier to pinpoint it.

In a BEUC report, the consumer rights group has drawn attention to TikTalk’s fiery age gate, stating: “In practice, it is very easy for younger users to register on the platform because the age verification process is too loose and only Is self-declarative. “

And while it notes that Tiktok’s privacy policy claims that the service is “not directed at children under the age of 13”, the report cites several studies that found that children under 13 Tickcock has been heavily used by – suggesting that children do indeed make “notes”. A very large portion of TikTok’s user base ”.

From the report:

In France, 45% of children under 13 indicated using the app. In the United Kingdom, a 2020 study by the Office for Telecommunications (OFCOM) showed that 50% of children between eight and 15 upload videos to Tittock at least weekly. In the Czech Republic, a 2019 study found that Tiktok is very popular among children aged 11–12. In Norway, a news article reported that 32% of children aged 10–11 used TikTok in 2019. In the United States, The New York Times revealed that more than a third of Daily Tickcock’s users are 14 or younger, and many of the videos appear to be coming from children who are down to 13. The fact that many younger users are active on the platform is not surprising as recent studies have shown that on average, most children own mobile phones before and after (for example) seven years of age in the UK Up to age).

recently European Union Supported Studies It was also found that age checks on popular social media platforms are “inherently ineffective” because they can circumvent children of all ages by lying about their age.

Terms of Use

Another issue raised by the complaint centers on the claim of unfair terms of use – in relation to copyright, with BEUC that TikTok’s T & Cs use it to “distribute, reproduce and publish videos published by users without remuneration. Give an irrevocable right to do ”with attention.

A virtual currency facility that provides this is also highlighted as problematic in terms of consumer rights.

Tiktok allows users to purchase digital coins which they can use to purchase virtual gifts for other users (which in turn can be converted back to fiat by the user). But BEUC says its ‘virtual item policy’ includes “inappropriate terms and misleading practices” – pointing out how it claims “absolute authority” to modify the exchange rate between coins and gifts , Causing “financial transactions to potentially skew themselves” favors.

While Tiktok displays the price of purchasing packs of its virtual coins, there is no clarity on the process of converting these gifts into in-app diamonds (which the receiving user can choose to redeem in real money, sent to them. Through PayPal or any other third party payment processing tool).

“The amount of final monetary compensation that is ultimately earned by the content provider remains unclear,” the BEUC report writes, “According to Tiktok, compensation is calculated based on various factors including the number of ‘diamonds’ that the user ‘Has earned … TikTok does not indicate how much the app retains when content providers decide to convert their diamonds into cash. “

“At first glance fickle, Tiktok’s virtual item policy is highly problematic from a consumer rights standpoint”.

Secluded

On data protection and privacy, the social media platform is accused of a whole case of “deceptive” practices involving (again) children. The complaint here accuses TeakTalk of failing to clearly notify users about collecting personal data, for what purpose and for what legal reason – as required under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). is.

Other issues flagged in the report include the lack of any opt-outs from the personal data being processed for advertising (aka ‘forced consent’ – some tech giants such as Facebook and Google have also been accused); Lack of explicit consent for the processing of sensitive personal data (which is a special protection under GDPR); And the absence of security and data protection by design, among other issues.

We have reached out to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), the chief supervisor of TikTok for data protection issues in the EU, regarding complaints, and will update this report with any response.

France’s data watchdog, CNIL, has already opened an investigation into TikTok Last year – Prior to the company shifting its regional legal base to Ireland (meaning data protection complaints must now be funneled through Irish DPC through GDPR’s one-stop-shop mechanism – adding to the regulatory backlog) .

Jef Ausloos, a postdoc researcher who worked on the legal analysis of TikTok’s privacy policy for data security complaints, reported that TechCrunch researchers were ready to file data security complaints a year ago – at a time when The stage had no lifespan – but it suddenly made major changes to how it operated.

Oslo suggests that such large-scale changes are a deliberate strategy to avoid regulatory scrutiny of data-exploitation practices – the research work being done to make the case for enforcement as a “continuous flow” Derailment and / or resetting may have an effect – it also indicates that cases against resource-strapped regulator companies may be reluctant to bring them ‘after the fact’ (ie if they have changed a practice).

The upshot of violations is that repeated violations of the law can never be enforced.

It is also true that the repeated refusal of platforms to the point of being called out (or called) on specific business practices is to claim that they have changed, how they work – limiting the impact of regulatory enforcement Want to use a defense or indeed a legal decision. (Aka: ‘Move fast and break regulatory accountability’)

However, Oslo says that the complainants’ expectation now is that the two-year documents on the Tickcock case will help build DPA cases.

Commenting on the complaints, BEIC Director General, Monique Goans said in a statement: “In just a few years, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media apps with millions of users across Europe. But TikTok is frustrating its users by violating their rights in a big way. We have discovered a whole range of consumer rights violations and have therefore filed complaints against TikTok.

“The children love Tickcock but the company fails to protect him. We do not want our youngest people exposed to hidden advertising and inadvertently turned into hoardings when they were just trying to have fun.

“Consumer groups from across Europe – along with our members – we urge the authorities to take prompt action. They must now work to ensure that Tiktok is a place where consumers, especially children, can exercise their rights. You can enjoy yourself without being deprived of it. “

When reached for comment on the complaints, a Tikotok spokesperson told us:

Keeping our community safe, especially our young users, and complying with the laws where we work are responsibilities that we take incredibly seriously. Every day we work hard to protect our community, which is why we have taken several major steps, including defaulting all accounts related to users to less than 16 private. We have also developed an in-app summary of our privacy policy with a glossary and a tone that makes it easy for teens to understand our view of privacy. We are always open to hearing how we can improve, and we have contacted BEUC as we would welcome a meeting to voice their concerns.