Archive for February 26, 2021

TikTok Agrees To Settle 21 US Federal Lawsuits Related To Privacy

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 26, 2021 by itnerd

TikTok has agreed to settle 21 separate US federal lawsuits related to privacy. The lawsuits accused the company of “theft of private and personally identifiable data,” some of it from children as young as six years old. But before you say that this is a win for the little guy, it isn’t. NPR reports that the agreed amount of compensation for the privacy breaches is $92M, working out at a little over one dollar per user before legal costs. #Fail:

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 information using facial recognition technology, without consent and shared the data with third-parties, some of which were based in China.

The proposed settlement, which lawyers in the case have called among the largest privacy-related payouts in history, applies to 89 million TikTok users in the U.S. whose personal data was allegedly tracked and sold to advertisers in violation of state and federal law. 

“First, it provides compensation for TikTok users, but equally as important, it ensures TikTok will respect its users’ privacy going forward,” Katrina Carroll, one of the lawyers for TikTok users, said. “Social media seems so innocuous, but troubling data collection, storage, and disclosure can happen behind the scenes.”

The settlement is the result of 21 federal lawsuits filed mostly on behalf of minors — some as young as 6 years old — that claimed the company engaged in the “theft of private and personally identifiable TikTok user data.”

TikTok for its part released a statement that really doesn’t require me to say much of anything:

“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.

I’ll say something anyway. That statement reads like “let’s pay as little as we can to sweep this under the rug and pretend that this never happened”. But maybe that’s the cynic in me making an appearance. One good thing to this settlement, TikTok has to alter its behavior:

Under the proposed terms of the settlement, TikTok will no longer record a user’s biometric information, including facial characteristics, nor track a user’s location using GPS data. TikTok also committed to stop sending U.S. users data overseas and the app said it would no longer collect data on draft videos before the content is published.

This still has to be approved by a judge, but while I am not a lawyer, I expect that to happen without drama. The fact is that TikTok settled this for pennies. The reality is that they really needed to be punished for their actions for more severely because you shouldn’t be allowed to take users data and do whatever you want with it. In short, TikTok got away with this.