The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok has reportedly agreed to pay $92 million to settle dozens of lawsuits alleging that the app harvested personal data from users without consent and shared the data with third-parties, including some in China. Experts are calling it one of the largest privacy-related payouts in history.
NPR reports that the Chinese-owned app TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million to settle dozens of lawsuits alleging that the popular video-sharing app harvested personal data from users, including facial recognition data, without user consent and shared this data with third-parties, including other Chinese organizations.
The proposed settlement applies to 89 million TikTok users in the United States whose personal data was tracked and sold to advertisers, violating state and federal law. Lawyers in the case have called it one of the largest privacy-related payouts in history.
Katrina Carroll, one of the lawyers for TikTok users, stated: “First, it provides compensation for TikTok users, but equally as important, it ensures TikTok will respect its users’ privacy going forward. Social media seems so innocuous, but troubling data collection, storage, and disclosure can happen behind the scenes.”
The settlement is the final result of 21 federal lawsuits filed mainly on the behalf of minors that alleged that the company engaged in the “theft of private and personally identifiable TikTok user data.” Some of the minors in the suit are as young as six-years-old.
A TikTok spokesperson stated that while the company disagrees with the claims in the lawsuit, it decided that settling the case was in its best interest. “Rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community,” the spokesperson said.
Lawyers representing TikTok users stated that the app “clandestinely vacuumed up” large amounts of private and personally identifiable user data that could be used to surveil users without permission.
Investigators hired by the plaintiff’s lawyers found that TikTok went to huge lengths to hide the data collection and sharing practices. The suit states: “Plaintiffs’ investigation has revealed that [TikTok did so] by obfuscating the source code that would reveal their misconduct.”
Read more at NPR here.
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