TikTok Reaches $92M Privacy Suit Settlement

After more than a year of litigation, TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million in a proposed settlement in a multidistrict litigation matter on Thursday on the Northern District of Illinois; plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleged that TikTok engaged in various privacy violations, such as collecting “highly sensitive personal data” to track and target users without consent and sharing some of this data with third-parties, some of which were in China.

The proposed settlement combined 21 proposed class-action privacy lawsuits against TikTok with an array of allegations. For example, some claims include that TikTok violated biometric laws by analyzing users’ faces to determine things such as age, gender, and ethnicity, violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by transmitting private data, without disclosure or consent, among other allegations. The settlement applies to 89 million U.S. TikTok users whose personal data was allegedly tracked and sold to third-parties, including advertisers, in violation of state and federal law. Additionally, a large portion of the 21 putative class actions were filed by or on behalf of minors.

Pursuant to the proposed settlement, TikTok will pay a $92 million settlement fund and injunctive relief “that addresses the complained-of conduct by requiring TikTok to make disclosures in keeping with the laws plaintiffs claim were violated and to initiate a newly designed data privacy compliance training program for all TikTok employees and contractors.” Specifically, TikTok is prohibited from collecting or storing user biometric information, collecting GPS or clipboard data, or storing or transmitting American users’ data outside of the United States, without disclosing this behavior in its privacy policy.

The claims against TikTok include: violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the California Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act, the California Constitutional Right to Privacy, California Unfair Competition and False Advertising laws, Video Privacy Protection Act, Intrusion Upon Seclusion, and Restitution/Unjust Enrichment.

The Nationwide Class covers “All persons who reside in the United States who used the App—the TikTok video-sharing application (or its Musical.ly predecessor) distributed in the U.S.—prior to issuance of the Preliminary Approval Order.” The Illinois Subclass covers “All persons who reside in the State of Illinois and used the App in the State of Illinois to create videos prior to issuance of the Preliminary Approval Order.”

The plaintiffs, who filed the motion for the court’s approval of the proposed settlement, claim that the court “should find that the Settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable.” The proposed settlement awaits final approval from Judge John Z. Lee.

TikTok is represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The plaintiffs and putative class co-lead counsel are Carlson Lynch; Fegan Scott; Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow.

This is one of many settlements to which TikTok has agreed. For instance, in December 2019, TikTok settled a children’s data privacy suit after one day of litigation and in February 2019 it reached a $5.7 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that its predecessor Musical.ly violated that Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This settlement comes on the heels of a government crackdown on TikTok over privacy, and national security concerns; however, the Biden administration has pulled back from the Trump Administration’s crackdown, instead choosing to have broader probe into Americans’ use of Chinese technology, and its pending sale has been put aside indefinitely.