Popular Chinese video sharing app TikTok is under investigation in the U.K . for how it gathers and uses children’s personal information.
Elizabeth Denham, head of the U .K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), stated in a parliamentary hearing Tuesday the agency is investigating whether TikTok violated the EU’s data privacy law called GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which requires companies to provide certain protections related to children’s personal data.
“We are looking at the transparency methods for children,” Denham stated. “We’re searching for the messaging system, which is entirely open, we’re looking at the kind of videos that are collected as well as shared by children online. So we will have an active investigation into TikTok right now so that you can watch that space .”
TikTok, possessed by Chinese private company ByteDance, lets clients create and share short videos and pair them with music and other special effects. The app had 500 million monthly active users as of February and was the third-most downloaded app in Apple’s App Store and Google Play merged in the first quarter of the year, as per the research firm Sensor Tower.
TikTok, which was formerly known as Musical .ly and goes by the name Douyin in China, is particularly popular among teenagers and preteens. This has raised eyebrows among some regulators worried about the privacy of teens online, which include the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ( FTC).
In February, the FTC fined TikTok $5 .7 million for illegally collecting children’s personal information. The agency stated the app failed to notify parents that it gathered and used the personal data of consumers under the age of 13.
The FTC also warned that strangers could send direct messages to users with private accounts, adding “there have been public reports of adults trying to contact children through the Musical .ly app .”
Denham stated the U.K. ICO opened its investigation into TikTok in February and expects it be completed “in the fall.” In addition to concerns about how TikTok collects and uses children’s data, she said the ICO is also worried about the app’s open messaging system that enables adults to message children.
”We cooperate with firms such as the ICO to offer relevant information about our product to support their work. Making sure data protection principles are upheld as a top priority for TikTok,” the company stated in a statement to CNBC.