TikTok and parent company ByteDance are facing a legal claim for allegedly violating UK and EU children’s data protection law.
Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner for England, has sued the popular video app on behalf of millions of children working with law firm Scott + Scott.
If successful, each child could receive thousands of pounds, while TikTok would have to dish out billions of pounds.
The legal claim argues that TikTok takes children’s personal information without sufficient warning, transparency or the necessary consent required by law and without parents and children knowing what is being done with their private information.
It would involve every child that has used the platform since 25 May 2018, regardless of whether they have an account or what their privacy settings are.
It is estimated over 3.5mln children in the UK have been affected.
The personal information allegedly collected by the company includes telephone numbers, videos, pictures and their exact location, along with facial recognition data, which Longfield said it is valuable to the company.
Cayman Islands-based ByteDance is expected to make nearly US$30bn in 2020, with over two-thirds of this being advertising revenue involving the transfer of personal information, the data claim said.
TikTok has over 800mln active users and was the most downloaded app globally in both 2019 and 2020.
In 2019, it was fined US$5.7mln by the US Federal Trade Commission for collecting children’s data without consent.
“TikTok is a hugely popular social media platform that has helped children keep in touch with their friends during an incredibly difficult year. However, behind the fun songs, dance challenges and lip-sync trends lies something far more sinister,” said Longfield.
“Parents and children have a right to know that private information, including phone numbers, physical location, and videos of their children are being illegally collected. TikTok appears set on making it as difficult as possible for millions of mothers and fathers to know who is benefiting from this information.”
“We want to put a stop to TikTok’s shadowy data collection practices, and demand that they delete all private information that has been illegally processed when children use the app.”