TikTok Inc. on Thursday settled a series of $92 million class-action privacy lawsuits affecting 89 million users in the US. The popular video-sharing app allegedly illegally recorded users’ facial scans, compiled private user data, disclosed it to third parties, and later sold it to advertisers, some of whom were based in China.
The settlement is the result of 21 federal lawsuits—most of which were filed on behalf of minors, including children as young as six years old—that accuse TikTok of the “theft of private and personally identifiable TikTok user data.”
In a statement to The Verge, a TikTok spokesperson refuted these claims, but also said, “Rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community.”
More than a year later, the lawsuits continue to gain traction and have recently merged into one major multi-district action in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Citing both Illinois and California privacy laws, the plaintiffs argue that technology laws require companies to obtain written user consent before data mining personal user information.
Lawyers representing TikTok users allege that the app “clandestinely vacuumed up” mass amounts of data that could arguably be used to surveil users without their consent. TikTok reportedly sold this data to other popular apps, including Facebook and Google.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers noted in their brief, “The TikTok app’s lighthearted fun comes at a heavy cost.” The suit also claims that TikTok attempted to conceal its alleged misconduct by “obfuscating the source code that would reveal their misconduct.”
The settlement currently awaits approval from judge John Lee. The settlement will be rejected if he determines that it does not adequately represent all parties’ interests.