The former Children’s Commissioner in England on Tuesday launched a lawsuit against the video platform TikTok accusing him of illegally collecting personal data from millions of children in the UK and Europe. Anne Longfield is suing, on behalf of these children (under 16 in the EU and 13 in the UK), TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance, hoping for compensation that could total billions of pounds, according to a press release.
Some 3.5 million in the United Kingdom are affected, it is specified. She believes that every child who has used TikTok since May 2018, i.e. since the introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), whether they have an account or not, could be affected by this data collection. This personal information includes phone numbers, videos, images, location of connection or even biometric data, such as facial recognition.
“Questionable practices of data collection”
The complaint, also brought by the law firm Scott + Scott, ensures that TikTok collects the data without sufficient warning, without transparency, and without asking for consent, as what is provided for in the law. For Anne Longfield, TikTok, which has 800 million users worldwide, is deliberately “opaque” on the use of data, which is of “incredible value” for the company, including the parent company ByteDance, registered in the Cayman Islands, is expected to achieve a turnover of nearly 30 billion dollars in 2020, of which two-thirds thanks to advertising, according to her.
“TikTok is an extremely popular platform that has helped kids stay in touch with their friends during an incredibly difficult year. But behind the funny songs, the dance challenges or the playback, there is something much more malicious, ”she explains. “We want TikTok to stop its questionable data collection practices, and we ask that it erase all private information illegally obtained when children use the app,” she said.
A spokesperson for TikTok responded by saying that the complaint “lacks merit” and that the company “intends to defend itself vigorously”. “Privacy and security are top priorities for TikTok and we have robust practices and technologies in place to protect all users, and teens in particular,” he added. TikTok was previously fined in February 2019 in February 2019 in the United States for illegally collecting personal data from minors under the age of 13, including their names, email and postal addresses.