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Italy’s watchdog warns TikTok over alleged breach of EU privacy rules

Italy’s data protection authority has formally warned Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok about an alleged breach of existing European Union rules to safeguard user privacy, the watchdog said on Monday.

TikTok had told users in recent weeks that it was going to deliver targeted advertising to them from July 13, without requesting consent for using data stored in their devices, the Italian watchdog said.

In changing its privacy policy, TikTok claimed it was acting in the legitimate interests of the company and its partners, according to the Italian regulator. But the watchdog said such a legal basis was not consistent with EU privacy rules.

“We strive to build a personalised experience for our community, and at the same time we are committed to respecting the privacy of our users … and operating in compliance with all relevant regulations,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

“While our evaluation of the Italian Data Protection Agency’s recent notice is still ongoing, we cannot comment further,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The Italian watchdog said it was reserving the right to impose unspecified restrictions should TikTok, which has seen rapid growth worldwide particularly among teenagers, not withdraw its announced policy changes.

It also said it was concerned that inappropriate advertising could be directed at minors given the problems that TikTok has faced in accurately monitoring the ages of its users.

The watchdog has also informed Ireland’s Data Protection Commission over TikTok’s policy alleged breaches of EU data rules. The Irish body is the lead EU regulator for TikTok and other top internet firms due to the location of their regional headquarters in Ireland.

Companies operating in the EU can face fines of up to 4% of global revenue for privacy breaches. Reuters

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