TikTok’s claims that privacy and security are its top priorities are to be tested in the High Court with the launch of a “landmark case” by a former children’s commissioner for England, alleging the video-sharing app illegally collects personal information from its young users.
Anne Longfield, who served as commissioner between March 2015 and February 2021, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of millions of children in the UK and the European Economic Area who have used TikTok since March 25 2018.
She alleges that the app breaches GDPR and aims to stop the company processing the information of millions of children and pay out compensation.
The case follows Dutch group Stichting Onderzoek Marktinformatie (SOMI), a non-profit privacy rights organisation, filing a complaint with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner alleging 18 separate violations of GDPR by TikTok.
Longfield said: “We are not trying to say that it is not fun. Families like it. It has been something that has been very important during the confinement, it has helped people to keep in touch, they have enjoyed it a lot. But my opinion is that the price to pay for that should not be there: that your personal information is illegally collected in bulk and passed on to others, most likely for financial gain, without them knowing.
“And the excessive nature of that collection is something that led us to [challenge] TikTok instead of others. It is the fact that, for this [age] kids group is the preferred app, but it’s also the kind of information they’re collecting; it may not be appropriate for a video application, especially the exact location, and probably facial recognition as well.”
The legal claim alleges that TikTok takes children’s personal information without sufficient warning, transparency, or necessary consent required by law, and without parents and children knowing what is being done with their private information. Longfield believes that more than 3.5 million children in the UK alone could have been affected.
Longfield, who representing those claiming to have suffered harm, said TikTok’s business model on personal data was “disproportionate”, adding that “children cannot consent”.
In response to the case, a TikTok spokesperson said: “Privacy and security are TikTok’s top priorities and we have strong policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users and, in particular, our teenage users. We believe the claims are without merit and we intend to vigorously defend the action.”
TikTok rocked by fresh claims of 18 violations of GDPR
‘Super-regulator’ puts TikTok, AI and adtech on notice
TikTok in the dock again as privacy complaints mount
TikTok eyes home shopping bonanza with new features
WPP jumps aboard TikTok with global ad partnership
Oracle told not to ditch TikTok DNA as it wins US bid
Government balks at TikTok plans to build British HQ
TikTok whacked again over abuse of kids’ personal data
Clock ticking on TikTok as EU probes data compliance