TikTok, the video-sharing platform which has been in the eye of the storm over security concerns in the past few weeks, has been fined by South Korea's telecommunications watchdog for mishandling child data. According to the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the company has been fined 186 million won ($155,000) for failing to protect users' private data.
The fine designated for such violations under local privacy law is equivalent to the three percent of TikTok's annual sale in South Korea. The KCC said that it initiated the investigation into the privacy issues surrounding TikTok in October 2019.
What TikTok Has Been Doing?
The regulator said that TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based internet tech company, ByteDance, collected data of children under the age of 14 without consent from their legal guardians.
KCC said, during the investigation South Korean authority found a minimum of 6,007 pieces of child data, collected between May 31, 2017, and December 6, 2019. But the popular Chinese video-sharing social networking service failed to notify users of the transfer of personal data overseas.
The investigation also revealed that the platform currently uses four cloud companies to store its data, which includes, Alibaba Cloud, Fastly, Edgecast, and Firebase. KCC said, South Korean user data is stored on servers run by Alibaba Cloud which are based in Singapore and the US
However, in a statement, TikTok said it outsourced data storage to third parties only when needed. The company said it regretted not properly informing users of this and added that it would improve the way the platform handles user data in the future.
TikTok in Trouble
Earlier this year, the US army reportedly banned the use of TikTok due to concerns over security. Later, India—where the platform has been immensely popular in recent years—banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, citing threat to national security. In July, the company had announced that it was exiting Hong Kong after the enforcement of National Security Law.
According to a recent report, Robert C. O'Brien, US National Security Adviser, had alleged that TikTok "is getting facial recognition" on millions of US citizens as well as mapping their relationships, and then sending the data back to China for processing.
He told Fox News Radio during a July 14 interview that "China is going to know everything about you, they're going to have biometrics on you. You have to be very careful who you give such personal information to."
However, the allegation that TikTok sends user data to China has been denied by the company as well as its parent, ByteDance. In response to O'Brien's claims, a TikTok spokesperson told Forbes, that there is massive misinformation surrounding TikTok out there.
The spokesperson added that the company has an American CEO and Chief Information Security Officer with decades of industry and US law enforcement experience. Four of the five board seats in the parent company are controlled by some of the world's best-respected global investors.
"US data is stored in the US and Singapore, with strict controls on employee access. These are the facts," said the spokesperson.