TikTok Class Action Lawsuits Filed Over Privacy Problems
According to allegations raised in recently filed class-action lawsuits, the popular video sharing service TikTok is violating the privacy of teens and other users, collecting data without proper consent and failing to tell users how long the data will be stored or how it will be used.
In a TikTok class action lawsuit (PDF) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the parents of two Illinois minors allege that the social media application collects, stores and uses personal and private biometric information and biometric identifiers by scanning users’ facial geometry without explicitly disclosing these functions, and without informed consent.
The complaint presents claims against the manufacturer, TikTok, Inc., and its parent company ByteDance, Inc..
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TikTok has gained widespread popularity over the past year, especially among teens and young adults. Formerly known as musical.ly, the app provides a video-sharing social network, where users create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. The app uses facial recognition software to superimpose filters on users’ faces, and artificial intelligence to evaluate the quality of uploaded videos, as well as determine the user’s age.
Plaintiff’s claim that TikTok collects and stores this personal biometric data regardless of whether it is uploaded or even saved by the user. The lawsuit further states that it is unclear what this personal information is being used for, who has access to it, and for how long.
According to the class action lawsuit, TikTok’s failure to notify people it captures and stores their biometric data is in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies collecting such data to obtain prior consent from consumers, detail how they’ll use it and how long it will be kept.
Privacy laws surrounding an individual’s biometric data have become increasingly strict over the last decade as many major tech companies began using advanced features such as fingerprint and facial scanning for authentication processes. However, unlike a password, biometric data is personal and private, which requires the collection of this data to be disclosed and consented to by the end user.
The lawsuit seeks to pursue damages on behalf of the plaintiffs, as well as other similarly situated individuals who were subjected to undisclosed and unconsented facial scanning by TikTok’s app.
The case joins a growing number of similar lawsuits, as well as claims by consumer groups over potential violations of a previous Federal Trade Commission (FTC) agreement from 2019, in which TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million in fines to the agency for allegations of violating children’s privacy.
Biometric data collected without consent from the user has previously resulted in large settlements against tech companies. Earlier this year, Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle allegations of its facial tagging feature violating the state of Illinois biometric privacy laws.
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