TikTok harvested and sent data to China, lawsuit claims

Nellie Chapman
December 4, 2019

The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a Californian-based university student named Misty Hong who alleges that she downloaded the app this year but did not create an account.

"TikTok clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data that can be employed to identify, profile and track the location and activities of users in the United States now and in the future", the complaint said, concluding that "TikTok's lighthearted fun comes at a heavy cost".

The class-action lawsuit was filed the day before Thanksgiving in California federal court, The Daily Beast said Monday.

A newly surfaced consumer class action, filed last Wednesday in California, accuses TikTok, which is owned and operated by Beijing-based ByteDance, of harvesting user data without notice or consent and sending that data to China.

Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok has built up a keen USA fan base.

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The lawsuit alleges that TikTok and Chinese parent company ByteDance have neglected their duty to handle user data with care and have knowingly violated a slew of U.S. statutes governing data gathering and the right to privacy, according to The Daily Beast. Such data included biometric information and the websites she visited on her phone.

Once a user shoots a video and clicks the "next" button, the videos are transferred to various domains without their knowledge.

TikTok has said in recent weeks that it stores its U.S. user data within the country and does not censor political content in line with Beijing's instructions.

TikTok has repeatedly said that the Chinese government has no access to the company's user information, because the social media giant reportedly stores USA user data in Virginia, with some backup in Singapore. "Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the USA and brief Congress on these findings".

Earlier this year, the USA government opened a national security investigation into ByteDance's acquisition of social media app Musical.ly, which has since been rebranded as TikTok.

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