TikTok on Wednesday agreed to pay $ 92 million to settle claims from a class action lawsuit alleging the app illegally tracked and disclosed users’ personal information without their consent. Kiichiro Sato / AP hide caption
Kiichiro Sato / AP
Kiichiro Sato / AP
TikTok has agreed to pay $ 92 million to resolve dozens of legal disputes alleging that the popular video-sharing app collected personal information from users, including information using facial recognition technology, without consent Has shared data with third parties, some of which were based in China.
The proposed settlement, The lawyers, who in this case are among the largest privacy-related payouts in history, cover 89 million TikTok users in the United States whose personal information was allegedly tracked and sold to advertisers in violation of federal and state law .
“Firstly, it offers compensation for TikTok users, but just as important is that TikTok respects the privacy of its users in the future,” said Katrina Carroll, one of the lawyers for TikTok users. “Social media seems so innocuous, but behind the scenes there can be problems collecting, storing, and disclosing data.”
The settlement is the result of 21 federal lawsuits filed primarily on behalf of minors – some of whom were only 8 years old – alleging the company “stole private and personally identifiable TikTok user data.”
A TikTok spokesperson said while the company disagreed with the claims in the lawsuit, the company ruled that settling the case was in its best interests.
“Instead of having lengthy litigation, we want to focus on creating a safe and fun experience for the TikTok community,” said the spokesman.
The legal battle has been raging for more than a year. The suits were merged one action for multiple districts in the northern district of Illinois, citing data protection violations in Illinois and California. Laws require technology companies to obtain written consent before collecting data about someone’s identity. The lawsuit also alleged that TikTok violated federal laws, including privacy and computer fraud and abuse laws.
According to lawyers representing TikTok users, the app has “secretly sucked in” large amounts of private and personally identifiable data that can be used to identify and monitor users without permission. Even information from draft video that was never publicly shared on the app was searched for data by TikTok, the users’ lawyers claimed.
When millions in the US turned to the app to watch videos of dance challenges, cooking tips, and goofy skits, TikTok allegedly sent their information to servers in China or other countries where employees from China could access the data.
Tiktok also shared information about users without their consent with Facebook, Google and other companies, according to the lawsuit.
“The carefree fun of the TikTok app is associated with high costs,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.
Investigators hired by the plaintiffs’ attorneys found that TikTok went to great lengths to hide its data collection and sharing practices.
“The investigation of the plaintiffs has shown this [TikTok did so] by obfuscating the source code that would expose their misconduct, “the lawsuit said.
The preliminary settlement is awaiting final approval from US District Judge John Lee of the Northern District of Illinois.
Under the proposed terms of the settlement, TikTok no longer records a user’s biometric information, including facial features, no longer tracks a user’s location using GPS data, and no longer sends US user data overseas.
Former President Donald Trump clamped on TikTok about its ties to China. The app is owned by Beijing-based technology company ByteDance. TikTok has long claimed that authorities in China cannot access US user data controlled by an American-led team.
The Biden administration hhow drawn back from his predecessor’s crackdown on TikTok and instead a more comprehensive review of the Americans’ use of Chinese technology.
The U.S. Foreign Investment Committee, a finance-led interagency group that investigates companies with overseas connections, is in the midst of a national security review by TikTok that may force changes to the company’s structure.
The planned TikTok agreement announced on Wednesday follows a similar deal Last year, Facebook paid $ 650 million to resolve legal claims about collecting and storing biometric data from millions of users.
Federal regulators have reviewed the data collection practices of minors at TikTok. In February 2019, TikTok paid A US $ 5.7 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission on allegations that the app illegally collected personal information from children.