“We live in a data-driven world. Almost every transaction and interaction you have with most organisations involves you sharing personal data, such as your name, address and birth date. You share data online too, every time you visit a website, search for or buy something, use social media or send an email.”

(ICO, 2019)

TikTok has been subject to discussions about privacy and security risks for some time, but how much of a digital safeguarding issue is privacy on the platform?

What is TikTok?

  • TikTok is a social media platform used to create and share short viral videos that are known for dance trends, catchy songs, lip-syncs and viral challenges.

  • TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms in the world, with over 8m users in the UK.

  • Research indicates that children between the age of 5-15 spend more than 60mins per day using the platform.

What are the concerns about privacy on TikTok?

  • Concerns exist that the platform may be collecting more data than it needs to, more than, for example, Facebook and Twitter, which already collect a significant amount of data.

  • The amount of data processed from the platform, which is used to create a ‘device fingerprint’ is of concern to many privacy and child protection advocates.

  • The Washington Post reported that one user found the platform sent around 125 pages of typed data in the first nine seconds of being opened – most of which was about the device being used.

  • It’s worth remembering that in 2019 the US Government fined the company over $5m dollars for the illegal collection of children’s data without obtaining parental consent (when it was still known as Musical.ly).

How can you protect children’s data?

  • Understanding the information collected about your child and how it’s used is the first step in protecting their information – click here to see TikTok’s privacy policy.

  • Generally, children under 13 need parental consent for data processing under COPPA and GDPR.

    Parents and carers should note that:

    TikTok is intended for users age 13 and over. Please do not allow a child under the age of 13 to use the app. If you learn that your child under the age of 13 has registered for a TikTok account, you may alert us at [email protected]

    (TikTok Support Centre)

  • If you become aware of your child using TikTok, you can use the right to erasure (GDPR) to access data which companies hold about your child and ask them to delete it.

  • Generally speaking, you can exercise your child’s privacy rights with permission, or where the child lacks capacity – find out more from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Although it may not be possible to stop the platform collecting personally identifiable information, this issue is not unique to TikTok and exists on all platforms.

By understanding these concerns and issues we can empower the children and young people in our care to make informed decisions about protecting their personal information online.

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Creative Activity Pack

As the lockdown begins to ease, we could all benefit from less screen time, give children in your care the opportunity to get away from screens and get creative.
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