Irish Data Watchdog to Probe TikTok Over Handling of User Data

By Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.
September 18, 2021 Updated: September 19, 2021

TikTok, the Chinese-owned video sharing platform, faces two inquiries from a data regulator in the European Union (EU) over its processing of children’s information and transferring of user data to China.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) said it will first look at the processing of personal data in the context of platform settings for users under age 18 and age verification measures for persons under 13, according to a statement released on Sept. 15.

The second inquiry will examine whether TikTok transfers EU user data to China, where its parent company ByteDance is located.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon warned of data transfer issues in March, according to a report by The Irish Times.

“TikTok tells us that EU data is transferred to the United States and not to China. However, we have understood that there is [a] possibility that maintenance and AI engineers in China may be accessing data,” the report stated, citing Dixon’s speech at an online event.

In July, the Dutch Data Protection Authority fined Tiktok $885,000 for not offering a privacy statement in Dutch. The agency said that children may not understand how the app collects, processes, and uses personal data.

The Netherlands privacy regulator said in a statement that it transferred several results of its investigation to the Irish Data Protection Commission as TikTok established operations in Ireland during the course of the investigation.

EU’s strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy law, allows only one regulator to oversee multinational companies’ operations in the bloc.

“From that point on, the DPA was only authorized to assess TikTok’s privacy statement because the violation itself had already ended,” Monique Verdier, deputy chair of the Netherlands data watchdog, said in the statement.

“It is now up to Ireland’s Data Protection Commission to finish our investigation and issue a final ruling on the other possible violations of privacy investigated by the DPA.”

Under GDPR, companies can be fined up to 4 percent of their global revenue. ByteDance reported $34.3 billion in earnings in 2020, up 111 percent year-on-year.

Ireland’s privacy watchdog levied a record fine of $265 million to WhatsApp for breaching GDPR earlier this month. The regulator said it had received complaints about how the app processes personal data, including users and those who don’t use WhatsApp, since the enactment of GDPR in 2018.

“This includes information provided to data subjects about the processing of information between WhatsApp and other Facebook companies,” according to the statement.

TikTok has been under scrutiny in the United States because of security concerns about its Chinese owner.

“The threat is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) … can use TikTok to gather sensitive information about Americans,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said in a previous interview with The Epoch Times.

The Trump administration attempted to ban TikTok in August 2020, saying that the app could be used by the CCP to spy on Americans, but the order was never enforced as the result of several court orders. President Joe Biden revoked the ban in June, instead directing the Commerce Department to a review of apps with ties to the Chinese regime for national security risks.

Cathy He contributed to this report.

Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.