TikTok, the wildly popular video app, is facing a London lawsuit filed on behalf of millions of children in the United Kingdom and Europe over privacy concerns. According to Bloomberg, the suit, which was filed in December, but details were only released on Wednesday, accuses the app and its parent company ByteDance Ltd. of violating UK and EU data protection laws. The lawsuit seeks to stop TikTok from “illegally” processing millions of childrens’ information and demands any personal information to be deleted.
Tiktok is one of the world’s most popular apps especially among youngsters and has around 100 million users in Europe alone. According to the suit filed by Anne Longfield, England's former Children's Commissioner, every child that has used the app since May 2018, regardless of their account status or privacy settings, may have had their private personal information collected for the benefit of unknown third parties. The claimants estimated that more than 3.5 million kids are affected in the UK alone, making a potentially hefty bill for the app if it loses.
If the case is successful, children could be entitled to thousands of pounds in compensations. However, TikTok has said that the claims in the London case “lacked merit” and the company would vigorously defend the action. According to the media outlet, TikTok said that privacy and safety are top priorities for the company and it also has robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users and teenage users in particular.
Meanwhile, the London case follows increased scrutiny of the app by several EU data watchdogs. According to reports, last year, the EU data-protection regulators pledged to coordinate potential investigations into the Chinese company, establishing a task force to get a better understanding of TikTok’s processing and practices. In the US as well, ByteDance was fined $5.7 million in 2019 by the Federal Trade Commission to settle allegations that Musical.ly, which ByteDance bought and renamed TikTok, illegally collected information from minors.
In June last year, the Indian Home Ministry had also banned 59 Chinese Apps including Tik-Tok. The Centre had stated that it received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of these apps for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers that have locations outside India. Hence, in a move to protect the sovereignty of Indian Cyberspace and to ensure the interests of crores of Indian mobile users, the government banned the apps.