TikTok subject of Dutch data protection probe

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By Matthew Holroyd
TikTok-Concerns   -  Copyright  AP

The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) has launched an investigation into the popular social media platform, TikTok over privacy concerns.

The probe will examine whether TikTok adequately protects the privacy of children under Dutch law and the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation.

“We will investigate whether the app has a privacy-friendly design," said Monique Verdier, deputy chair of the Dutch DPA.

"We’ll also check whether the information TikTok provides when children install and use the app is easy to understand and adequately explains how their personal data is collected, processed, and used."

Authorities are also examining whether the app requires parental consent for TikTok to collect and use data on its young users.

TikTok's popularity has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, and market intelligence provider Sensor Tower estimates that the app was the second-most installed application in April worldwide, with more than 107 million downloads.

The Chinese-owned social media app has previously come under scrutiny from both the United Kingdom and the United States over its data privacy regulations.

In February 2019, the company agreed to pay $5.7 million (around €5.25 million) as part of a settlement over allegations it "illegally collected images, voice recordings, and geolocation" of children, some younger than 13.

But on Thursday, a coalition of children's and consumer groups has accused the popular app of failing to abide by their agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission to protect children's privacy.

“We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users," a TikTok spokesperson told Euronews.

Last month, TikTok outlined some data security measures it was implementing, including new policies on global data residency, data movement, and data storage access protections worldwide.

The company says they are "committed to protecting the privacy of children" and only collect limited information from younger users, such as username, password, and birthday.

"TikTok's top priority is protecting our users’ privacy and safety, especially our younger users," the company said in a further statement to Euronews.

"We are aware of the investigation by the Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens (Dutch Data Protection Authority) and are fully cooperating with them."

The Dutch Data Protection Authority is expected to publish its initial findings later in 2020.

"Data privacy rights matter and they are the foundation of democratic values," said Helga Turku, data protection and privacy director at HewardMills, a UK consultancy office.

"We should all be wary of any potential uses of children’s data to create profiles or process their information in a way that may have a detrimental impact on that child’s privacy."

"Ensuring the protection of fundamental rights during a crisis and beyond will protect future generations and ensure ongoing high standards of data protection and privacy."