Tik Tok Parent Company Facing $92 Million Class Action for Privacy Issues

Tik Tok Parent Company Facing $92 Million Class Action for Privacy Issues

Preliminary approval for a $92 million class action settlement on behalf of Tik Tok users was recently granted by a federal court in Chicago. The suit also includes users of Tik Tok's predecessor app, Musical.ly. The primary claim is that the company collected users' biometric information and private data wrongfully. It is also alleged that the private data and biometric information was was disclosed to and shared with third parties. Such disclosure violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), as well as the federal Video Privacy Protection Act and an assortment of other consumer privacy and protection legislation.

What Is Biometric Information

Biometric information encompasses physiological traits that are unique among individuals. Such identifiers include facial patterns, voice cadence and fingerprints. It's these characteristics that can be used to electronically verify a user's identity. It's illegal in the state of Illinois to use biometric information as a means of gaining access to a website.

Proposed Settlement Terms

Tik Tok's parent company, ByteDance, Inc. is the target of the current suit that's been initiated by the class action law firm, FeganScott, LLC, on behalf of users. The settlement is to be comprised of $92 million that would be distributed to members of the suit. The plaintiff also wants to require Tik Tok to include disclosures to their users under certain conditions and to require their employees and contractors to undergo a data compliance training program that to be designed for the purposes of avoiding such invasive breach of privacy in the future. The law firm has expressed discomfort with companies like Tik Tok collecting such sensitive personal data as physical attributes like facial expressions, eye colors, movements and gestures.

Case Details

The court decided to break the suit into two categories of settlement cases. These are a nationwide class suit and an Illinois subclass. The nationwide class encompasses all individuals across the United States who used either the Tik Tok or Musical.ly app before the date of September 30, 2021. The Illinois subclass suit refers only to those users living within the state of Illinois and used the app prior to the last day of September in 2021.

The case was argued in Illinois Federal Court by a representative of the law firm, Carlson Lynch, named Katrina Carroll. The presiding judge was the Honorable Judge John Z. Lee. The attorney stated that it was her hope that this case would bring attention to the need for companies to make their customers aware of how their personally identifiable data is being used and stored, as well as the need to acquire explicit consumer consent prior to collecting biometric information.

Illinois is one of only a few states that has enacted legislation to aggressively and proactively protect consumer privacy. They have done this through the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). This act requires companies to acquire informed consent from consumers before collecting any biometric identifiers. The legislation also allows for the pursuit of statutory damages in the event that provisions of the law are ignored.

The settlement amount of this case is one of the largest ever awarded in this type of case. In fact, it's one of the highest amounts achieved in privacy class action overall. It's hoped that the awarding of this hefty settlement amount will serve to reinforce to media companies the importance of consumer privacy. The litigators want companies to understand that they will be held accountable should they violate consumer rights in the future.

Due to the existence of BIPA in Illinois, the members of the subclass suit will each be awarded six equal shares of the settlement fund. Nationwide members will each receive one equal share of the total settlement. The amount to be awarded to each member will depend upon the total number of members to submit claims to the suit.

The final fairness hearing for this case will be heard on May 18, 2022. All claims and statements must be received prior to this date. To learn more details and to submit their own claim, users of Tik Tok and Musical.ly should visit the settlement website.

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