TikTok has been hit with a series of complaints from the European Consumer Organization BEUC today. The complaint alleges a number of privacy and policy violations, which BEUC is urging the European Commission to investigate. Among the allegations BEUC has logged against TikTok are:
- Unfair terms in TikTok’s Virtual Item Policy: TikTok allows users to purchase virtual coins with real money and donate those coins to influencers on the platform. BEUC says the terms allow TikTok to modify the coin exchange rate at any time, potentially skewing transactions in its favor.
- The unfair right to use user content however TikTok wants: The BEUC has also taken issue with what they say is TikTok’s unfair terms of service, which gives the company an irrevocable right to use the videos its users create without compensation to them.
- Potential General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) violations: The BEUC says TikTok does not have a “comprehensible” explanation of how it processes user data—especially for teens and children, which can mislead them about how their data is being used. This would be a violation of GDPR.
- Exposing children and teens to harmful content: BEUC says TikTok allows advertisers to use hidden advertising on the platform, such as branded hashtag challenges that encourage the creation of content. The organization also says that the app serves up “inappropriate content such as videos showing suggestive content which are just a few scrolls away” to its non-adult users.
It should be noted that this isn’t the first time TikTok has been accused of practices that fail to protect children on its platform.
“In just a few years, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media apps with millions of users across Europe. But TikTok is letting its users down by breaching their rights on a massive scale. We have discovered a whole series of consumer rights infringements and therefore filed a complaint against TikTok,” Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC said in a statement.
Goyens continued, “children love TikTok but the company fails to keep them protected. We do not want our youngest ones to be exposed to pervasive hidden advertising and unknowingly turned into billboards when they are just trying to have fun. Together with our members—consumer groups from across Europe—we urge authorities to take swift action. They must act now to make sure TikTok is a place where consumers, especially children, can enjoy themselves without being deprived of their rights.”