The former Children’s Commissioner for England has launched legal proceedings on behalf of 3.5 million children under the age of 13 against TikTok.
Anne Longfield has alleged that the social media platform has illegally collected personal data from millions of children since May 2018 – when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for millions of potentially affected children, which Ms Longfield says could run into billions of pounds.
The claim argues that TIC Tac, which was founded by the Chinese company ByteDance, willfully violated data protection rules, taking children’s personal information without warning, without transparency or with the necessary consent.
It is also alleged that personal data was collected without the knowledge of parents and children.
This is the latest legal action against the video-sharing app after the High Court ruled in December that a 12-year-old girl, backed by Ms Longfield, could bring it. dispute with TikTok anonymously.
TikTok policies in the UK do not allow children under 13 to use the app and those who download it are asked to indicate their age when registering.
The numbers suggest that many children under the age of 13 use the platform.
Ms Longfield said she felt the app’s data collection policies, in general, were “overkill for a video-sharing app”, but was more troubled by “the data collection in the world. ‘industrial scale without the children or parents realizing it “.
TikTok’s data collection policy is listed on its website, but Ms Longfield said she felt its practices were “hidden” and “shady.”
“In terms of what they take, there are addresses, names, information on date of birth, their tastes, interests, who they follow, their habits – all of that – profiling, but also geolocation. exact, it is very external which would be deemed appropriate, ”she said.
“You shouldn’t be doing this when they’re kids.”
Ms Longfield accused TikTok of being “deliberately opaque” about who has access to the data, but notes that the company makes billions from advertising revenue generated by providing information about users to advertisers.
A spokesperson for TikTok said, “Privacy and security are top priorities at TikTok and we have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users and our teens in particular.
“We believe the claims lack merit and intend to vigorously defend the action.”
Ms Longfield, who trained US litigation specialists Scott + Scott, hopes it would be a “powerful test case” that would serve as a “wake-up call” to other social media platforms.
She added that she hoped to force TikTok to delete the data and put new measures in place to protect children.
“I would like to see them recognize the problem, stop collecting illegal data, delete the illegal data they have and put in place safeguards, so that they can demonstrate that they are acting responsibly,” he said. she declared.
“I would like to see them reassure parents – they’ve introduced measures in recent months – great, I’m happy when people take action, but while this is absolutely at the heart of what the business model is, all action is won.” t get to the heart of what needs to be done.
“So I think they need to communicate that to the parents, they need to stop doing it, they need to take it down and put measures in place, then see how they’re going to rebuild trust – I think that’s really what we do. ‘Re talking. “
TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world – especially among young people – and has around 100 million users in Europe alone.
The COVID-19 pandemic, with many children having online learning at home, has helped solidify its success.
In January, TikTok Tightens Privacy Rules to Protect Under-16s, with any account for those under 16 changed to private.