Lawsuit: TikTok Sent User Data of Americans to China

TikTok video app
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A new lawsuit alleges that social media app TikTok sent “vast quantities” of data on American users to China.

BBC News reports that the video-sharing social media app TikTok has been hit with a class action lawsuit which alleges that the app transferred “vast quantities” of American user data to China. The lawsuit alleges that TikTok “surreptitiously” took content from users without consent. The app is owned by Beijing-based firm ByteDance but has quickly built up a large U.S. user base, primarily of young people.

A lawsuit filed in a court in California last week alleges that TikTok “clandestinely… vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data.” It also claimed that the data could be used to identify and track users in the United States “now and in the future.”

The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a Californian-based university student named Misty Hong who alleges that she downloaded the app this year but did not create an account. She alleges that months later TikTok had created an account for her on the app and “surreptitiously” took draft videos that she had created but not published on the app.

The lawsuit claims that TikTok unfairly profits from “secret harvesting” of users’ private data by using it to derive “vast targeted-advertising revenues and profits.” Recently, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to investigate the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to determine if it poses “national security risks.”

“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” wrote Schumer and Cotton, who currently sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings.”

TikTok published a response to this in an unsigned blog post in which the company stressed its independence from China. The firm stated that it is not “subject to Chinese law,” and stressed that it has “never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked.”

The senators stated that they feared that TikTok would be forced to adhere to Chinese laws which would “compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” Schumer and Cotton worried that TikTok could be a “potential target of foreign influence campaigns like those carried out during the 2016 election on U.S.-based social media platforms.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently called on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review the acquisition of social media app Musical.ly by TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. over claims that TikTok is used by the Chinese government to censor certain political content.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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