TikTok is facing a legal challenge from former children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield over how it collects and uses children’s data.

TikTok is being sued for billions of pounds over allegations the video-sharing app illegally harvested the private data of millions of European children.

The lawsuit, which is being backed by former children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield, alleges that every child that has used TikTok since 25 May 2018 may have had personal information collected for the benefit of unknown third parties.

The claim is being filed on behalf of millions of children in the UK and EU who have used the hugely popular video-sharing app. TikTok said the case was without merit and it would fight it.

The affected children could each be owed thousands of pounds

Longfield, who is acting as so-called litigation friend for an anonymous 12-year-old girl leading the class action, said affected children could receive thousands of pounds each if the claim is successful.

Lawyers will allege that TikTok takes children’s personal information, including phone numbers, videos, exact location and biometric data, without sufficient warning, transparency or the necessary consent required by law, and without children or parents knowing what is being done with that information.

Ms Longfield told she was focusing on TikTok because, while all social media platforms collected information, TikTok had excessive data collection policies.

TikTok is a hugely popular social media platform that has helped children keep in touch with their friends during an incredibly difficult year. However, behind the fun songs, dance challenges and lip-sync trends lies something far more sinister.

Ms Longfield

She alleges the firm is a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network which has deliberately and successfully deceived parents.

Parents and children have a right to know that private information, including phone numbers, physical location, and videos of their children are being illegally collected.

The case is not without precedent

The case is being represented by law firm Scott and Scott. Partner Tom Southwell said he believed the information collected by TikTok represents a severe breach of UK and EU data protection law.

TikTok and ByteDance’s advertising revenue is built on the personal information of its users, including children. Profiting from this information without fulfilling its legal obligations, and its moral duty to protect children online, is unacceptable.

In 2019, TikTok was fined $5.7m for mishandling children’s data

The firm has been fined in South Korea over how it collects children’s data, and in the UK, it has been investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

That action revolved around Musical.ly, which was incorporated into TikTok, knowingly hosting content published by users under the age of 13. TikTok was ordered to delete the data and set up an age verification system.

According to Ofcom, 44% of eight to 12-year-olds in the UK use TikTok, despite its policies forbidding under-13s on the platform. Despite being launched in 2017, the case has still not had the go-ahead and is due to be heard by the Supreme Court soon.

It could be difficult for similar cases to succeed if the Supreme Court dismisses Mr Lloyd’s ability to bring his claim.

Richard Leedham – Mishcon de Reya

The claimants, who are being advised by law firm Scott & Scott, accuse TikTok of breaching European and UK data protection laws by processing children’s data without adequate security measures, transparency, the consent of guardians or legitimate interest.

In response TikTok said

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.

TikTok

The suit, which is being heard in the High Court, is calling for the company to delete all children’s personal information and seeking billions of pounds in damages.

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