TikTok, the popular video app, and its Chinese parent ByteDance could face billions of dollars in damages in London’s High Court over allegations they illegally harvested the private data of millions of of European children.
Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner for England and the so-called legal representative, or public face, of an unnamed 12-year-old girl leading the class action, said on Wednesday that the affected children could each receive thousands of pounds if the claim is successful. successful.
Longfield alleged that all children who have used TikTok since May 25, 2018, may have had personal information illegally collected by ByteDance through TikTok for the benefit of unknown third parties.
“Parents and children have a right to know that private information, including their children’s phone numbers, physical location and videos, is being illegally collected,” he said.
A TikTok representative said that privacy and security were top priorities for the company and that it had strong policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users, especially teens.
“We believe the claims are without merit and we intend to vigorously defend the action,” the representative said.
TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world, especially among young people, with around 100 million users in Europe alone. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has confined many children at home, has helped cement their success.
But the plaintiffs, advised by the law firm Scott & Scott, allege that TikTok breached UK and European Union data protection laws by processing young people’s data without adequate security measures, transparency, consent. of guardians or legitimate interest.
The claim calls for the company to delete all of the children’s personal information and claims damages could run into “billions of pounds” if they are successful.
Such US-style “opt-out” data privacy class actions — linking a defined group automatically to a lawsuit unless individuals opt out — are rare in Britain.
The case has been put on hold pending a ruling from the UK Supreme Court in a case against internet giant Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) for allegedly illegally tracking iPhone users in 2011 and 2012 through cookies. third parties.