The proposed settlement, described as one of the "largest privacy-related payouts in history," includes 89 million US users, some as young as six years old. According to lawyers involved in the suit, TikTok quietly collected a mountain of personally identifiable information on account holders, including biometric data such as their ethnicity, gender, and age. And even information from draft videos that were not shared publicly on the platform.
In an extensive legal scrap, TikTok initially found itself facing over 20 federal lawsuits, which were later combined into one one multi-district action in the Northern District of Illinois. The suit claimed the company broke federal laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Video Privacy and Protection Act, along with privacy laws in Illinois and California.
TikTok told NPR that it disagreed with the allegations, but decided on settling the case to avoid protracting an already lengthy litigation battle. "We'd like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community," a company spokesperson said.
The settlement, which is pending approval by the court, also dictates that TikTok must stop tracking biometric information, including facial characteristics. It has also committed to halt the movement of US user data overseas and promised to cease its collection of data from draft videos.
“This is one of the largest settlements ever achieved in a consumer BIPA case, and one of the largest privacy class action settlements,” Ekwan Rhow, a co-lead counsel for the lawsuit, said in a statement. “It serves as a reminder to corporations that privacy matters, and they will be held accountable for violating consumers’ rights.”
The payout is the latest admonishment for the popular video-sharing app. TikTok is grappling with numerous security investigations and consumer law complaints across the pond in Europe and was previously fined $5.7 million by the FTC over child privacy violations.