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TikTok faces billion-dollar suit for illegally harvesting child data

The short video app supposedly took personal info of children and transferred it to unknown third parties for profit.

Popular short video app TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are facing a billion-dollar suit in a London high court over allegations of illegally harvesting personal data of European children.

Anne Longfield, former children's commissioner for England, is behind the case. The children's commissioner for England is a non-departmental public body that promotes and protects the rights of children, and stands up for their views and interests.

“Today, I’m launching a legal claim against @tiktok_uk on behalf of millions of children whose data was illegally taken and transferred to unknown third parties for profit,” tweeted Longfield.

As per tiktokdataclaim.uk (a site Longfield mentioned in her post), “TikTok and ByteDance have violated UK and EU children’s data protection law (GDPR), and deceived parents about how exposed their children’s private information is when they use the app.”

It added that when children join TikTok, it collects a host of private and personal information, such as their date of birth, telephone number, profile picture/or videos, location of their phone or device, biography description, etc.

Longfield told the BBC that TikTok is "a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network" which has "deliberately and successfully deceived parents... TikTok and ByteDance's advertising revenue is built on the personal information of its users, including children. Profiting from this information without fulfilling its legal obligations, and its moral duty to protect children online, is unacceptable."

An anonymous 12-year-old brought this lawsuit and Longfield supports her. If the claimant wins the case, children stand to receive thousands of pounds in the settlement.

In response to the suit, TikTok said, as reported by the BBC, “Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok. We have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users, and our teenage users in particular. We believe the claims lack merit and intend to vigorously defend the action.”

Cormac Keenan, head of trust and safety, TikTok, wrote on the brand’s website, “We've continued to take a range of steps to better protect the safety of our community… We took the decision to make all new and existing accounts belonging to people under 16 private by default.”

Also Read: What's happening to TikTok India? The anatomy of a giant controversy

In May last year (2020), TikTok India landed itself in trouble after a video that promoted acid attacks on women gained people’s attention online. The Indian government banned TikTok a month later, in June.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash