Class-Action Lawsuit Adds to TikTok Drama

Posted on August 5, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Social with 12 Comments

A class-action lawsuit involving 20 US-based families claims that TikTok steals private data and sends it to servers in China. Lawyers representing the families would like to expand the case nationwide, a change that could potentially involve millions of users.

The class-action lawsuit arose out of separate but similar federal lawsuits filed over the past year, starting in California, according to NPR. In each case, parents claim that the explosively popular social networking mobile app collected information about their children that includes facial characteristics, locations, and close contacts, and then “quietly” sent that data to servers in China.

TikTok denies the claims.

“The [TikTok] app’s privacy policy fully discloses that user data will be shared with TikTok’s corporate affiliates and third-party business partners and service providers, as is standard with free social networking apps that have a business model based on advertising,” a lawyer representing the firm said.

As for the “sending data to China” bit, NPR points out that nobody, including the US government, has ever provided direct evidence of TikTok sending data about American citizens to China or, more dramatically, the Chinese Community Party. Instead, TikTok uses Virginia-based servers for its US-based users, and that data is backed up to servers in Singapore. TikTok has said publicly that no data collected from American users has ever been sent to servers or authorities in China.

The class-action lawsuit challenges those assertions. “Technology experts” hired by the lawyers studied TikTok’s data collection and claim that data is being sent “sent to servers in China under the control of third-parties who cooperate with the Chinese government.” There’s no explanation of how they arrived at this conclusion.

“Such information reveals TikTok users’ precise physical location, including possibly indoor locations within buildings, and TikTok users’ apps that possibly reveal mental or physical health, religious views, political views, and sexual orientation,” a legal filing explains.

TikTok says these experts are “factually mistaken.”

“The present lawsuit is based on (and quotes) the same anti-Chinese rhetoric, conjecture, supposition, and innuendo that originated with these political and competitive attacks,” the firm’s lawyers countered.

So there we go. Back and forth, same as ever.

But more important, this is another great example of why Microsoft should never acquire any TikTok assets. It’s just not worth the trouble.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Class-Action Lawsuit Adds to TikTok Drama”

  1. Avatar

    david.thunderbird

    I don't know bout you but I'm Tik'ed and tired of Tok.

  2. Avatar

    illuminated

    At some point we may learn the truth in some book because right now it looks like some game.

    Is this the new hate toy to replace Huawei for China hate crowd?

    Or is this just a way to make a big noise to hide the Facebook attempts to copy TikTok?

    Microsoft trying to buy it looks more like forced bank merger of 2008. I just do not see in what universe this acquisition makes any sense.


  3. Avatar

    glenn8878

    It’s not back and forth as a debate. It’s a class action lawsuit.


    And Microsoft is well equipped to change the situation. They also know the best lawyers. Or fold like a tent!

  4. Avatar

    qaelith2112

    Bizarre lawsuit. I've seen the same thing in article comment threads where TikTok was mentioned. It looks to me like some people just assume without evidence that TikTok must be up to no good and then proceed to convert this baseless assumption into some feeling of certainty followed by over-the-top outrage and demands for action. This seems to be a part of a broader problem in the US lately, where any number of unfounded assumptions become fact in the minds of a lot of irresponsible people and then policy ends up being made from it. It's almost like a lot of people could stand to school themselves better on basic epistemology or something.

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