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Class-Action Lawsuit Alleges TikTok Steals Kids' Data and Sends it to China

Photo of Karl Long

Parents of minor children filed suit against TikTok and allege that the video-sharing app collects information about their kids' facial characteristics, locations and close contacts, and quietly sends the data to servers in China.

The plaintiffs claim that troves of information are being sent to servers in China under the control of third-parties who cooperate with the Chinese government. Such information includes TikTok users' precise physical location, including possibly indoor locations within buildings. Information collected by the app also may reveal users' mental or physical health, religious views, political views, and sexual orientation.

The lawsuit contends that as soon as TikTok is downloaded, it starts collecting data, even before a user opens an account. Also, when TikTok is merely on a phone, but not being used, it is still allegedly vacuuming-up loads of personal data. It is a practice, the suit argues, that violates the law by not receiving the consent of users.

Attorneys for TikTok contend the app is not capturing users' biometric information or sending any data to China. TikTok's primary servers are in Virgina and its backup servers are in Singapore. TikTok asserts that no data from users in the United States is sent to China. However, TikTok's lawyers also argue that the company can transfer data to Beijing, if it so chooses, without breaking any laws.

TikTok is currently under intense pressure in the United States because the Trump administration considers TikTok a national security threat because its parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. Microsoft is rumored to be in negotiations to purchase TikTok. Microsoft recently vowed that if it purchases TikTok, all data on American citizens will remain in U.S. borders and that any data stored on servers outside of the United States would be deleted.

Some lawyers involved in the lawsuit predict that a settlement will be reached before any sale of TikTok is completed and that TikTok may be in a rush to resolve suits to make itself more attractive to purchasers. Facebook recently entered into a $650 million settlement over its facial recognition technology, which is a record data-privacy settlement. A TikTok settlement could eclipse that amount.

If you or someone you know seeks legal representation regarding data-privacy violations, please contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 1‑800-594-4884.

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