TikTok Sued For Billions Over ‘Excessive’ And ‘Sinister’ Collection Of Children’s Data
TikTok is facing a lawsuit over its ‘excessive’ and ‘sinister’ collection of children’s data that could be worth billions.
In 2019, the Chinese-owned social network was ordered to pay a $5.7 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission, aimed predominantly at Musical.ly – later incorporated into TikTok – for hosting underage content.
While its ubiquity online only grows every day, the video-sharing app has faced criticism and accusations of using data unlawfully over the past year, including a new class-action lawsuit potentially worth billions in damages.
Anne Longfield, the former children’s commissioner for England, said any child affected by the data collection could be owed thousands of pounds each, BBC News reports. She’s said to be the ‘litigation friend’ of the anonymous 12-year-old girl who first brought legal action against TikTok in December.
The suit, represented by law firm Scott & Scott, alleges children who’ve used the app since May 25, 2018, may have had their personal information – such as phone numbers, videos, exact locations and biometric data – collected by ByteDance, TikTok’s parent firm, for the benefit of third parties.
Longfield told the publication: ‘TikTok is a hugely popular social media platform that has helped children keep in touch with their friends during an incredibly difficult year. However, behind the fun songs, dance challenges and lip-sync trends lies something far more sinister.’
She described it as a ‘data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network,’ which has managed to ‘deliberately and successfully deceive parents’ with its ‘excessive’ actions.
Longfield also said, as per Reuters: ‘Parents and children have a right to know that private information, including phone numbers, physical location, and videos of their children are being illegally collected.’
Her partner Tom Southwell also dubbed it a ‘severe breach of UK and EU data protection law,’ saying: ‘TikTok and ByteDance’s advertising revenue is built on the personal information of its users, including children. Profiting from this information without fulfilling its legal obligations, and its moral duty to protect children online, is unacceptable.’
TikTok brought in an age-verification system following 2019’s fine. However, according to Ofcom, it isn’t overly effective – 44% of those aged between 8-12 in the UK use the app, despite having a minimum age of 13.
In response to the claims, TikTok said in a statement: ‘Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok and we have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users, and our teenage users in particular. We believe the claims lack merit and intend to vigorously defend the action.’
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