Wednesday, September 29, 2021
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Ireland probes TikTok’s handling of kids’ data and transfers to China – TechCrunch

Eire’s Information Safety Fee (DPC) has yet one more ‘Huge Tech’ GDPR probe so as to add to its pile: The regulator said yesterday it has opened two investigations into video sharing platform TikTok.

The primary covers how TikTok handles kids’s knowledge, and whether or not it complies with Europe’s Basic Information Safety Regulation.

The DPC additionally mentioned it should look at TikTok’s transfers of private knowledge to China, the place its mum or dad entity is predicated — seeking to see if the corporate meets necessities set out within the regulation protecting private knowledge transfers to 3rd international locations.

TikTok was contacted for touch upon the DPC’s investigation.

A spokesperson informed us:

“The privateness and security of the TikTok neighborhood, notably our youngest members, is a prime precedence. We’ve carried out intensive insurance policies and controls to safeguard consumer knowledge and depend on accepted strategies for knowledge being transferred from Europe, similar to normal contractual clauses. We intend to totally cooperate with the DPC.”

The Irish regulator’s announcement of two “personal volition” enquiries follows stress from different EU knowledge safety authorities and shoppers safety teams which have raised considerations about how TikTok handles’ consumer knowledge usually and kids’s info particularly.

In Italy this January, TikTok was ordered to recheck the age of each consumer within the nation after the information safety watchdog instigated an emergency process, utilizing GDPR powers, following baby security considerations.

TikTok went on to adjust to the order — removing more than half a million accounts the place it couldn’t confirm the customers weren’t kids.

This yr European client safety teams have additionally raised a number of child safety and privacy concerns about the platform. And, in May, EU lawmakers mentioned they might evaluate the corporate’s phrases of service.

On kids’s knowledge, the GDPR units limits on how children’ info will be processed, placing an age cap on the power of youngsters to consent to their knowledge getting used. The age restrict varies per EU Member State however there’s a tough cap for teenagers’ potential to consent at 13 years previous (some EU international locations set the age restrict at 16).

In response to the announcement of the DPC’s enquiry, TikTok pointed to its use of age gating expertise and different methods it mentioned it makes use of to detect and take away underage customers from its platform.

It additionally flagged a lot of recent changes it’s made round kids’s accounts and knowledge — similar to flipping the default settings to make their accounts privateness by default and limiting their publicity to sure options that deliberately encourage interplay with different TikTok customers if these customers are over 16.

Whereas on worldwide knowledge transfers it claims to make use of “accepted strategies”. Nonetheless the image is moderately extra sophisticated than TikTok’s assertion implies. Transfers of Europeans’ knowledge to China are sophisticated by there being no EU knowledge adequacy settlement in place with China.

In TikTok’s case, which means, for any private knowledge transfers to China to be lawful, it must have extra “acceptable safeguards” in place to guard the knowledge to the required EU normal.

When there is no such thing as a adequacy association in place, knowledge controllers can, probably, depend on mechanisms like Commonplace Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or binding company guidelines (BCRs) — and TikTok’s assertion notes it makes use of SCCs.

However — crucially — private knowledge transfers out of the EU to 3rd international locations have confronted important authorized uncertainty and added scrutiny since a landmark ruling by the CJEU last year which invalidated a flagship knowledge switch association between the US and the EU and made it clear that DPAs (similar to Eire’s DPC) have an obligation to step in and droop transfers if they believe folks’s knowledge is flowing to a 3rd nation the place it is likely to be in danger.

So whereas the CJEU didn’t invalidate mechanisms like SCCs totally they primarily mentioned all worldwide transfers to 3rd international locations have to be assessed on a case-by-case foundation and, the place a DPA has considerations, it should step in and droop these non-secure knowledge flows.

The CJEU ruling means simply the very fact of utilizing a mechanism like SCCs doesn’t imply something by itself re: the legality of a specific knowledge switch. It additionally amps up the stress on EU businesses like Eire’s DPC to be pro-active about assessing dangerous knowledge flows.

Remaining steerage put out by the European Data Protection Board, earlier this yr, gives particulars on the so-called ‘particular measures’ {that a} knowledge controller might be able to apply with a purpose to enhance the extent of safety round their particular switch so the knowledge will be legally taken to a 3rd nation.

However these steps can embody technical measures like robust encryption — and it’s not clear how a social media firm like TikTok would have the ability to apply such a repair, given how its platform and algorithms are repeatedly mining customers’ knowledge to customise the content material they see and with a purpose to preserve them engaged with TikTok’s advert platform.

In one other current growth, China has simply passed its first data protection law.

However, once more, that is unlikely to vary a lot for EU transfers. The Communist Get together regime’s ongoing appropriation of private knowledge, by means of the appliance of sweeping digital surveillance legal guidelines, means it could be all however inconceivable for China to satisfy the EU’s stringent necessities for knowledge adequacy. (And if the US can’t get EU adequacy it could be ‘attention-grabbing’ geopolitical optics, to place it politely, have been the coveted standing to be granted to China…)

One issue TikTok can take coronary heart from is that it does doubtless have time on its aspect in relation to the’s EU enforcement of its knowledge safety guidelines.

The Irish DPC has an enormous backlog of cross-border GDPR investigations into a lot of tech giants.

It was solely earlier this month that Irish regulator lastly issued its first resolution towards a Fb-owned firm — saying a $267M wonderful towards WhatsApp for breaching GDPR transparency guidelines (however solely doing so years after the primary complaints had been lodged).

The DPC’s first resolution in a cross-border GDPR case pertaining to Huge Tech got here at the end of last year — when it fined Twitter $550k over a knowledge breach courting again to 2018, the yr GDPR technically begun making use of.

The Irish regulator nonetheless has scores of undecided instances on its desk — towards tech giants together with Apple and Fb. That implies that the brand new TikTok probes be part of the again of a a lot criticized bottleneck. And a choice on these probes isn’t doubtless for years.

On kids’s knowledge, TikTok could face swifter scrutiny elsewhere in Europe: The UK added some ‘gold-plaiting’ to its model of the EU GDPR within the space of youngsters’s knowledge — and, from this month, has mentioned it expects platforms meet its really helpful requirements.

It has warned that platforms that don’t absolutely interact with its Age Acceptable Design Code might face penalties below the UK’s GDPR. The UK’s code has been credited with encouraging a lot of current modifications by social media platforms over how they deal with children’ knowledge and accounts.

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