The Italian Data Privacy Authority has ordered the TikTok application to temporarily block the accounts of any users whose age cannot be confirmed, Reported Reuters.
The order comes after the death of a 10-year-old girl in Palermo, whose parents told authorities that their daughter was involved in a "blackout challenge”That he saw in the application. The child died of suffocation and authorities are investigating whether anyone called her to try the challenge.
The Italian Data Protection Authority has ordered TikTok to block all unverified users in Italy until at least 15 February. The company Reported told the Guardian that it did not find content on its platform that would encourage the child to take part in the challenge, but said it was working with researchers.
"Privacy and security are top priorities for TikTok and we are constantly strengthening our policies, processes and technologies to protect all our users, especially our newest users." said a TikTok representative in an email to The Verge.
According to the terms of service, users must be at least 13 years old to register on TikTok, but the Italian authorities said it is easy for anyone to circumvent this rule. TikTok has a US version of its application for children under 13 (TikTok for Younger Users) which restricts content and interaction to children.
As its popularity grew, TikTok spent much of last year adding more privacy checks to newer user accounts. It introduced remote parental controls and allowed parents to change their children's privacy settings in the app. Earlier this month, TikTok updated its default privacy settings for users ages 13 to 15, setting limits on who can view and comment on their videos.
However, privacy advocates have argued that TikTok is not doing enough to protect children on its platform. Beijing-based parent company BeteDance has fined the US Federal Trade Commission $ 5,7 million in 2019 for a previous issue of TikTok called Musical.ly for violating Internet privacy laws. (COPPA) allowing users under the age of 13 to use the app without their parents' consent.
The temporary suspension of unverified accounts in Italy prohibits TikTok from "further processing user data for which there is no absolute certainty about age".