According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Britain’s data regulator is gathering information on Snapchat to determine if the American instant messaging service is taking adequate steps to keep minors off its site.
While UK media regulator Ofcom thinks that there are thousands of underage users, Reuters revealed exclusively in March that Snapchat owner Snap Inc (SNAP.N) had only deleted a few dozen minors under the age of 13 off its platform in Britain last year.
Social media businesses must obtain parental permission to process the data of children under 13 in accordance with UK data protection law. Users of social media networks must generally be 13 or older, however companies have had varying degrees of success in keeping kids off their services.
Snapchat declined to provide specifics about any actions company may have taken to lower the number of users who were underage.
A Snap representative said, “We share the ICO’s goals to make sure that digital platforms are age appropriate and support the duties laid out in the Children’s Code.
They continued, “We continue to have productive discussions with them on the work we’re doing to achieve this.
The ICO often compiles information about a purported breach before opening any official investigations. Before deciding whether to fine the person or organization under investigation, it may issue an information notice, which is a formal request for internal data that may help the inquiry.
60% of kids between the ages of eight and eleven had at least one social media account last year, which was frequently made by giving a bogus date of birth, according to data from Ofcom. It also discovered that the most widely used social networking app among teenagers was Snapchat.
After the Reuters investigation, the public complained to the ICO about Snap’s management of children’s data, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
According to the source, several of the concerns were due to Snapchat not taking sufficient steps to keep young children off the platform.
According to the sources, the ICO has consulted users and other regulators to determine whether Snap has violated any laws.
ICO continues to monitor and evaluate the measures Snap and other social media platforms are taking to stop minors from using their services, a representative for the organization told Reuters.
In the upcoming months, a choice will be taken regarding whether to open a formal investigation into Snapchat, according to the sources.
According to a Reuters calculation, Snap would be subject to a fine of up to 4% of its annual global turnover, or $184 million, depending on its most recent financial performance, if the ICO decided that the company had violated its regulations.
Global pressure is mounting on Snapchat and other social media companies to better manage content on their services.
According to data gathered by the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Young minors), Snapchat accounted for 43% of incidents where social media was used to spread pornographic photographs of minors.
When Reuters previously contacted Snapchat to comment on this report, the company remained silent.
The ICO penalized TikTok 12.7 million pounds ($16.2 million) earlier this year for improperly accessing children’s data, claiming the Snap rival did not “take sufficient action” to delete it.
A TikTok representative said at the time that the company “invested heavily” to keep children under 13 off the platform and that its 40,000-strong safety team worked “around the clock” to keep it secure.
Snapchat does prevent individuals under the age of 13 from joining up with a date of birth. Other applications, however, take more proactive steps to stop minors from using their sites.
For instance, TikTok continues to prevent under-13s from registering accounts if they fail to sign up for the service using their genuine date of birth.