British Tween Takes On TikTok

Class Action Over Data Harvesting

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

An anonymous 12-year-old girl’s class-action lawsuit against TikTok in the UK could result in the Chinese company paying billions of pounds worth of damages. The suit alleges that ByteDance (owner of TikTok) illegally harvested the private data of millions of kids in Europe. If the suit succeeds, kids could get thousands of pounds each.

I sure hope my kid is one of them. She certainly has earned it, spending countless hours boogying before a tiny screen instead of studying or playing a sport or an instrument or reading.

The allegation is that information including videos, phone numbers, and kids’ locations, were allegedly collected, and then passed onto unknown third parties.

A TikTok representative disputes the claim, saying its policies and technologies protect users, particularly kids.

The accusations are nothing new. Many countries, including the US, have opened investigations into the app’s data collection practices. TikTok has also been accused of actively preventing users from knowing what it knows.

Its practices aren’t dampening enthusiasm for the app. In Europe alone, TikTok has more than 100 million users, with growth surging amid COVID-19 lockdowns and kids in bedrooms “studying”.

The UK class action claims that TikTok violated UK and European Union data protection laws by “processing youngsters’ data without adequate security measures, transparency, the consent of guardians or legitimate interest.” The suit demands TikTok pay damages and also delete all children’s personal data.

Meanwhile in the UK, another case is underway. Next week, the UK Supreme Court will hear a case involving Google and whether it illegally tracked iPhone users. This case is viewed as a bellwether of things to come.

With any luck, what happened in the US will happen here. In February, TikTok agreed to pay $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in which it was accused of illegally collecting teenage users’ data.

So, you never know. All that time on TikTok — and so many family arguments — could finally pay off.

Writer, editor, parent. Concerned about the world around us. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.

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