USA: Class-action lawsuit filed in California to accuse TikTok of illegally harvesting data and sending it to China

Author: The Daily Beast, Published on: 5 December 2019

“California Class-Action Lawsuit Accuses TikTok of Illegally Harvesting Data and Sending It to China”, 2 December 2019

The social-media platform TikTok is amassing vast swaths of data on its users without their consent and sending it to servers in China, according to a class-action lawsuit filed… in California federal court.

The suit, filed by Misty Hong, a college student from Palo Alto, alleges TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, neglected their duty to handle user data with care and knowingly violated a slew of statutes governing data gathering and the right to privacy.

Hong is seeking punitive damages and injunctions on the company that would, among other things, bar it from transferring user data from the U.S. to China and from retrieving any biometric data like facial scans from videos users have chosen not to upload.

“At the same time that Defendants utilized the Musical.ly and TikTok apps to covertly tap into a massive array of private and personally-identifiable information, they went to great lengths to hide their tracks,” Hong alleges…

According to the suit, ByteDance used Musical.ly—which was acquired in November 2017 for $800 million to $1 billion and later christened TikTok—to secretly gather users’ locations, ages, private messages, phone numbers, contacts, genders, browsing histories, cell-phone serial numbers, and IP addresses. That data was allegedly then sent to Chinese servers.

The suit contends that previous versions of TikTok’s privacy policies explicitly stated that the app might send user data to China but that even after the policy changed, TikTok still delivered such information to servers in China…

The app, she [Hong] alleges, transferred all of her information to servers owned and operated by companies that cooperate with the Chinese government. She’s filed the lawsuit on behalf of all U.S. residents who have downloaded TikTok, roughly 110 million people.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is conducting a national security review of ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly…

Hong, her lawyers, and ByteDance did not immediately return requests for comment.

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Related companies: Bytes Technology TikTok