|The TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone screen, July 7. EPA-Yonhap|
By Baek Byung-yeul
Korea is moving to join the ongoing boycott of Chinese video app TikTok, which has received criticism from countries including India and the United States over alleged mishandling of users' personal information, according to a government official Monday.
An official of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) said the country's top telecom regulator recently completed an investigation into TikTok over suspicions that the internationally popular social media platform has sent user data to the Chinese government.
The KCC also alleged that TikTok has not obtained the consent of legal representatives of users in Korea under 14 years old.
"We will hold a meeting about whether to impose a fine on TikTok on Wednesday (June 15), and the results will be announced the same day," an official in the KCC's personal data infringement department told The Korea Times.
The KCC has investigated TikTok over allegations of mishandling of private data since last October. The state-run agency, which supervises the country's media policies, requested TikTok's Singapore headquarters to provide data related with cybersecurity issues, and recently completed the investigation.
In Korea, internet service providers must obtain the consent of legal guardians if the providers wish to collect names, email addresses or other personal information of children according to the Personal Information Protection Act, but the KCC has investigated TikTok for its compliance with this law.
If the KCC decides to impose a fine on TikTok, the Chinese app may have to pay a fine of a maximum 3 percent of the business entity's yearly revenue, according to the Information Communications Network Act.
Based in China, TikTok has been enjoying global popularity with more than 800 million active users worldwide. The platform enables users to tell their own stories in short videos lasting between 15 seconds to 1 minute. Since its launch in 2016, the application has been downloaded over 2 billion times to become of the world's most popular social media platforms. In Korea, about 3 million users are using the short-form video app.
However, the video-sharing app has been criticized in many countries for poor management of users' personal data.
India said recently it would ban 59 apps and services made in China including TikTok. After the India-China border conflict, New Delhi ordered the local telecom operators and internet service providers to block access citing security concerns.
Taking the social media platform as a "cybersecurity threat," the U.S. government is also moving to ban TikTok because of its possible ties to the Chinese government.
In February 2019, ByteDance, the operator of the app, was hit with a $5.7 million fine by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for violating children's privacy laws by failing to obtain parental consent before collecting personal data about children. The U.S. Navy also banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices.
Furthermore, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said recently the U.S. is considering a ban on Chinese social media platforms, especially TikTok. His remark came as tensions between the U.S. and China continue over national security, trade and technology issues.