TikTok forced to pause plans for privacy-intrusive ads

Update: July 29 —  We have received a response from the European Data Protection Board which provides details regarding the steps that data protection regulators from Ireland, Italy, and Spain have taken to act on TikTok’s plans. You can read the press release from the EDPB here.

July 12: When TikTok announced its plan to impose personalised ads on everyone over 18 who uses the platform in EEA, UK, and Switzerland, Access Now told the company in no uncertain terms that it must scrap this action that would risk privacy, and deny agency. Reports now indicate that TikTok has hit the brakes.

On 5 July, 2022, Access Now sent open letters to TikTok to immediately halt these invasive changes, and to the European Data Protection Board and its members to intervene.

While Access Now’s request for public response by 12 July, 2022, was not met, a new report from MLEX states that TikTok is pausing its ill-advised plans and is planning to engage with regulators. Its decision comes after three EU data protection authorities from Italy, Ireland, and Spain reached out to TikTok to issue warnings and commence investigations into the legality of the company’s plan.

“TikTok must end its plan to force personalised ads on people once and for all,” said Estelle Massé, Global Data Protection Lead at Access Now. “When we rang the alarm bells, data protection authorities from Italy, Ireland, and Spain listened. With their swift action to protect people’s rights, they shut down a problematic practice and potential harmful precedent before TikTok could implement it.” 

“Access Now is looking forward to TikTok’s response to our letter where we laid out why the company’s plans stand at odds with EU law and its own human rights commitments,” said Isedua Oribhabor, Business and Human Rights Lead at Access Now. “TikTok should not just quietly pause its plans — it must be publicly accountable for its actions by meaningfully responding to its community when we stand up for our rights.”

Read Access Now’s letters to TikTok and the European Data Protection Board.