TikTok is being sued for billions of pounds in the UK and Europe over accusations it has illegally collected personal information from millions of children.
The Chinese social media giant, which boasts over 800 million users worldwide, has been accused of a “severe breach of UK and EU data protection law”, and could be forced to pay out thousands of pounds in damages to millions of child users.
The landmark case is being brought by the former children’s commissioner of England Anne Longfield on behalf of all children who have used TikTok since 25 May 2018.
According to the latest data from Ofcom, some 44 per cent of eight to 12-year-olds currently use the app, meaning some 3.5 million children could be represented in the claim, seeing TikTok potentially being ordered to pay billions in damages.
TikTok, which has made increasingly bold moves into the retail space since 2019, allegedly takes children’s private information without their parents consent and sells it on to third parties.
Lawyers will claim that TikTok collects children’s phone numbers, videos, exact location data and even biometric data without transparency or sufficient warning.
TikTok said in response to the case: “Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok and we have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users, and our teenage users in particular. We believe the claims lack merit and intend to vigorously defend the action.”
Longfield said: “We think parents and children will be shocked, and this is made much more serious for me because of the sheer scale of usage of this social media (app) by families and children of this age.
“Clearly, they know under-13s are using it, companies often say kids put the wrong age on but my view is that isn’t good enough.
“Knowing kids will do that, you need additional measures to provide more robust verification of children when they are online.
“I would like to see this is as a landmark case to make it clear that there are limits to what families are willing to sign up to, with social media companies.”
This is not the first time TikTok has been accused of collecting personal data of minors, having been forced to pay $5.7 million in fines to the US Federal Trade Commission for allegedly collecting children’s personal information illegally.
It has also been under investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioners Office (ICO) for similar data violations for months, with the results due to be posted later this year.