TikTok Data Privacy Settlement: What Happened?

 Quick Hits 

  • Tik Tok agreed to settle a class-action privacy lawsuit for $92 million in February  
  • The plaintiffs allege TikTok used improperly obtained biometric data, mined user information from unposted drafts, and improperly shared data with third parties like Google and Facebook 

 

TikTok has settled a class-action lawsuit regarding the collection and use of personal data from users of the social media app. This settlement is a result of 21 lawsuits, some of which were filed on behalf of minors, and applies to approximately 89 million TikTok users.  

TikTok denied all of the allegations behind the lawsuits but agreed to a $92 million settlement for users affected. “While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community,” said TikTok after agreeing to the settlement in February. 

So, what personal information and data privacy issues did TikTok violate? We can’t know for sure since the case was settled out of court. However, looking at the allegations and Tik Tok’s settlement we can see the potential, and likely, violations of privacy. 

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The Personal Data Issue 

The plaintiffs allege TikTok used improperly obtained biometric data, mined user information from unposted drafts, and improperly shared data with third parties like Google and Facebook. 

It’s alleged that TikTok uses facial recognition to gain a competitive advantage over other social media apps. The suit alleged that facial recognition was used to determine personal information like age, gender, and race to recommend content. The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act gave the citizens of Illinois the right to act against TikTok for using their biometric information without their consent.  

The suit also alleged that drafted and unposted videos were used by the app to mine information and that the user's personal data was being unlawfully disclosed to third parties.  

TikTok settled to keep the case from going to trial and has reportedly made changes as part of the settlement. Some data will be deleted, although whether this data is unposted drafts or biometric data, we cannot be sure.

Additionally, TikTok has claimed it will no longer collect biometric data, no longer track user location, no longer mine information from the user’s drafted content, and no longer store US citizen’s data outside of the US. All of this, however, can be changed if it is openly disclosed in its privacy policies.  

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The Settlement 

Although a $92 million settlement may sound like a large amount of money, if applied to all the users affected, those in the nationwide subclass would receive a payout of $0.96 due to attorney fees. Illinois citizens, however, will receive more (up to $5.75 if every eligible person submits a claim). Even if only 20% of users claim a part of the settlement, nationwide users may only receive around $4.79.

Eligible users received the Tiktok Data Privacy Notice of Settlement through a notification on the app. These details are still visible on the TikTok data privacy settlement website: www.tiktokdataprivacysettlement.com 

 

Even though Tik Tok has not agreed to any privacy violations, this settlement has led to additional agreements from TikTok to protect users’ personal data and biometric data. Tik Tok’s alleged use of personal data is concerning for many people who were unaware of the privacy concerns related to the app. While the social media giant was able to settle these claims out of court, this case shows consumers’ increasing awareness of privacy issues.

 

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Topic(s): data security