Snapchat is having information gathered by the UK’s data regulator to determine whether it is doing enough to remove underage users from its platform, according to a Reuters report. 

According to the publication, UK media regulator Ofcom estimates that the application hosts thousands of underage users, but US-based Snap Inc, the owner of Snapchat, had only removed a few dozen. 

The instant messaging application requires users to be over 13 to join its platform. The UK data protection law requires social media companies to obtain parental consent before collecting data from anyone under 13.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is currently gathering information from the company – a usual step before deciding whether to launch a full investigation or deliver any formal request for internal data, Reuters reported.  

A decision will reportedly be made in the next few months as to whether a full investigation will be launched. 

In a statement received from the publication, Snapchat said: “We share the goals of the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) to ensure digital platforms are age appropriate and support the duties set out in the Children’s Code.”

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Adding: “We continue to have constructive conversations with them on the work we’re doing to achieve this.”

According to the publication, the ICO has received a number of complaints concerning the use of underage data from Snapchat.

If Snap is found in breach of ICO rules, its possible they could be fined up to 4% of its annual global turnover, according to the publication.

UK regulators cracking down on social media

“The ICO’s scrutiny of Snapchat signals that regulators are increasingly demanding that social media companies police content more stringently on their platforms and swiftly remove underage users,” Laura Petrone, principal analyst at GlobalData, told Verdict.

Petrone notes there is “renewed talk about the need for age verification measures in the UK’s Online Safety Bill” which is causing a “big dilemma for businesses”.

There are concerns that these measures could “potentially reduce user numbers and hit advertising revenue,” Petrone said.

Petrone explains that verification measures will mean businesses will be “increasingly expected to use the technologies and resources they possess to develop their own solution to ensure age verification.”

However, the current versions of age verification are “problematic” and not totally reliable, according to the analyst.

“ID checks may put off people with good reasons for not sharing their identity, such as survivors of abuse,” Petrone adds.