Source: Getty Images

Has TikTok Been Stealing Data From Users? A Class Action Lawsuit Suggests Yes


Feb. 27 2021, Published 8:13 p.m. ET

The social media platform TikTok started as a harmless app meant for dancing, lip-synching, and filling the digital void that Vine left behind. Unfortunately, amid the rising stars and new trends, TikTok has caught heat for stealing personal user data and selling it to third parties. As of Feb. 25, 2021, there is a proposed settlement; here's everything you need to know about the TikTok class-action lawsuit.

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The TikTok class action lawsuit has been raging for over a year.

According to NPR, this legal battle started with 21 federal lawsuits against TikTok, alleging that the company committed "theft of private and personally identifiable TikTok user data." The suits were merged into one direct action suit by the Northern District of Illinois, which cited violations in privacy laws of both Illinois and California as the reason for the compilation. The laws that TikTok violated require users to give written consent before their data can be collected.

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In the words of the lawyers representing the TikTok users, the app "clandestinely vacuumed up" large amounts of data that could be used to personally identify and spy on users without their knowledge or permission. According to the suit, even draft videos that were never published were fair game for data mining. This is not even the first suit TikTok has faced for data mining — in February 2019, the app paid a $5.7 million fine for allegedly collecting the data of minors.

According to investigations of TikTok noted in the lawsuit, it's clear the company went to great lengths to cover up their theft. The good news, however, is that the suit has finally reached a tentative settlement. TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million to 89 million TikTok users in the United States, among a few other amendments, to ensure the safety of future app users.

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These demands specified that TikTok could, "no longer record a user's biometric information, including facial characteristics, nor track a user's location using GPS data. TikTok also committed to stop sending U.S. users' data overseas, and the app said it would no longer collect data on draft videos before the content is published." But is it really all's well that ends well? 

tiktok class action lawsuit
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A national security review of TikTok could change whether or not U.S. users access the app.

Many are familiar with former President Donald Trump's determination to block U.S. users from the app because of its basis with Chinese company ByteDance, but President Biden has been considerably more lenient with the app. That being said, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is in the middle of a national security review of TikTok presently; so how U.S. users interact with the app could change drastically. 

Source: Twitter

Although the intentions of TikTok seemed in the beginning, it might be a little more trouble than it's worth. Many apps nowadays data mine, but for something as serious as a $92 million payout, maybe users are better off finding a different replacement for Vine. 

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