Social Media Giant TikTok Sued for Allegedly Transferring Teens' Data to China
The popular video app TikTok has been hit with a lawsuit claiming it stole user information without knowledge or consent, then transferred the data to Chinese servers.
A class-action lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by college student Misty Hong against TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.
The suit, obtained by Courthouse News, accuses the app, which is used by millions to share videos of everything from dancing and lip-syncing to various viral jokes, of storing and sending “vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data” to servers in China as recently as April.
That information was then allegedly used to target users with advertising that was more efficient and effective.
“These apps infiltrate users’ devices and extract a remarkably broad array of private and personally-identifiable information that Defendants use to track and profile users for the purpose of, among other things, targeting them with advertisements from which Defendants unjustly profit,” the lawsuit claims.
Information gleaned from the accounts include facial scans, birthdays, phone and social network contacts, browsing history and more, according to the suit.
Hong says she downloaded TikTok in either March or April, but never knowingly created an account.
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Months later, however, she realized that an account had been made for her without her knowledge or consent, and that the five or six videos she’d made none of which she’d saved or posted — had allegedly been transferred to Chinese servers, some of which were controlled by third parties that worked with the Chinese government.
Hong claims in the suit that the transfer happened in between the time in which the user records a video and when it’s uploaded.
The Palo Alto resident also alleged that in addition to having her privacy invaded, the stealing of data damaged her phone’s battery, memory, CPU and bandwidth.
TikTok maintains that it “stores all U.S. user data in the United States with backups in Singapore,” according to Reuters.
The company did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, nor did Hong’s attorneys.