TikTok has agreed to re-verify the age of each user in Italy and block access to users under the age of 13, the country’s information security agency said today. The video-sharing social network has confirmed that from February 9, every user in Italy will have to go through the gate process again – and only those 13 years of age or older will be allowed to continue using the app. Those under the age of 13 will have their account deleted.
The move, which requires all Italian users to follow the tick-age verification process, follows an emergency order from the Italian GPDP on January 22, following the death of a 10-year-old teenager in Palermo who died of suffocation after taking part in a “blackout”, challenges on social networks according to local media reports. ”
TikTok gave a deadline of January 29 to respond to the GPDP order, as we have already stated. Today, the company confirmed that it has agreed to take action. As well as asking all users in the country to re-enter their date of birth to continue using the app, GPDP said TikTok would “consider setting up an AI-based system for age verification”.
Italian surveillance added that it would monitor the effectiveness of the tick verification process. TikTok initial age is checked when users sign up – which will reappear to all users in Italy in a few days – users only need to enter a date of birth, so it is easy to avoid. However, it is also clear that online age verification remains a tough issue. Strong identity checks for age determination undoubtedly threaten the “sledgehammer for cracking nuts” scene – potentially limiting access to the service in such a way and risking online anonymity and privacy loss, potential knock-on effects and other data considerations.
There is growing public concern on the other side that underage users meeting inappropriate and even harmful content online.
The data protection commission (DPC) in Ireland, led by TikTok in the European Union, has included a provision in the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that allows national DPAs to take urgent action to protect users. “In order to identify users under the age of 13 with reasonable certainty after this initial check, the company took the initiative to consider further deployment of AI-based systems,” the company said today.
“Since the implementation of such systems requires balancing the need for proper verification against children’s right to data protection, the agency is committed to initiating a dialogue with the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) regarding the use of AI for verification purposes. Ireland where TikTok has established its main base in the EU, “it added.
Another change driven by GPDP’s intervention is that TikTok has implemented an application button to enable users to report other users who may appear to be under 13 years of age “quickly and easily.” According to TikTok, these reports reviewed by moderators and “removed as needed”.
The company further noted that TikTok has agreed to improve the term of the Privacy Notice for users under the age of 18 – “to explain how data is collected and how it is processed in an easy-to-understand and user-oriented manner”.
In addition to promoting TikTok upcoming information, GPDP is running a child protection awareness-promotion campaign on national TV channels, in collaboration with a child protection charity called Telephone Azzurro. It said it would aim at parents to encourage their children to monitor the use of the app.
“The purpose of this campaign is to call on parents to actively supervise and pay special attention to situations where their children are requested to enter their age to access TikTok,” it said.