Developers, remember to translate your app’s terms and conditions — or it could cost you big time.
The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) has fined video-sharing platform TikTok EUR 0.75m (USD 0.88m) for violating the privacy of young children by not translating its privacy statement into Dutch.
“By not offering their privacy statement in Dutch, TikTok failed to provide an adequate explanation of how the app collects, processes and uses personal data,” the DPA said in a July 22, 2021 press release. According to local news coverage, TikTok has lodged an objection to the fine.
The increased use of TikTok by children during Covid lockdowns prompted the DPA to launch an investigation in May 2020. The organization concluded that children could not easily understand TikTok’s privacy statement because it was available only in English. The missing translation, the DPA argued, led to young children using the app without knowing how their personal data would be used — an infringement on privacy laws.
Since the DPA kicked off its investigation, TikTok has established formal operations in Ireland, limiting the DPA’s jurisdiction on other violations.
“From that point on, the [DPA] was only authorized to rule on TikTok’s privacy statement,” the Dutch agency wrote in a July 22, 2021 LinkedIn post. “It is now up to the Irish regulator to complete this investigation and make a judgment.”
TikTok has already made a number of changes to the app to make it safer for users under the age of 16. But netizens pointed out an obvious loophole: Minors can bypass restrictions simply by entering false birth dates when creating accounts on TikTok and other apps.
“Yes, you go against the requirements that are made and you run the risk of losing your account,” university lecturer Martin Molema wrote. “I am curious how many 12-year-olds are registered as such and are under parental supervision.”
Data protection officer Alex Goudriaan added that parents rarely read privacy statements for social media apps themselves, and often ignore the age restrictions. “Younger children have to deal with apps, which are not intended for them,” he said.Summing up the intersection of data protection, youth, and translation, data privacy officer Marja Wilkens quipped, “Interesting that the [DPA] apparently thinks that the children are reading the Dutch text.”