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23 Mar 2022

Natasha Lomas, Techcrunch (USA)

UK: High Court authorises child privacy class action lawsuit against TikTok to proceed

“TikTok children’s privacy lawsuit can proceed, says UK High Court”, 23 Mar 2022

A UK High Court judge has granted permission for a class-action style privacy lawsuit to proceed against TikTok over its handling of children’s data...

The suit is seeking damages on behalf of millions of children for alleged abuse of their information...TikTok could be on the hook to pay billions of dollars in compensation...

The suit is being brought under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the U.K.’s Data Protection Act 1998...

The decision to allow the suit against TikTok to proceed was by no means a given. The action had been stayed pending the outcome of another class-action style privacy litigation — brought against Google...which was also seeking representative damages for privacy harms.

However, last November, Google won its appeal [at] the Supreme Court.

In the event, the judge has allowed the TikTok suit to be served against...linked corporate entities...which the claimants argue are implicated in TikTok’s processing of children’s data...

Since the TikTok suit was filed, a Children’s Code has come into force in the U.K. — requiring digital services which are likely to be accessed by children to comply with a set of design standards intended to prioritize privacy and safeguard minors from being tracked and profiled...

Tech platforms operating in the U.K. are also facing a major new content oversight regime with a strong child protection component fast coming down the pipe: The government is in the process of pushing the Online Safety Bill through parliament and that legislation is also linked to meaty fines for violations.

Elsewhere in the region, TikTok remains under scrutiny by the European Commission following a series of consumer protection and child safety complaints last year, and in the wake of an emergency data protection procedure instigated in Italy following reports of the death of a child.

An EU data protection investigation of TikTok’s handling of children’s information, originally highlighted by Italy’s DPA, remains ongoing, with Ireland’s Data Protection Commission now the lead authority for that procedure.

A similar compensation-seeking children’s data suit has also been filed against TikTok in the Netherlands.