TikTok Fights Lawsuits Over Alleged In-App Browser Data Collection – The Hollywood Reporter
TikTok is facing class action lawsuits alleging it tracks and collects users’ personal data through its in-app browser.
In the latest lawsuit filed on Wednesday, users allege that TikTok “secretly amassed vast amounts of highly invasive information and data by tracking their activities on third-party websites.” At least a dozen class-action lawsuits have been filed since November, alleging violations of federal wiretapping laws, among other things.
TikTok remains under attack from the government over fears that the data it collects on American users could be used by the Chinese government to advance its interests. For example, the company could be forced to adjust its algorithm to boost criticism that undermines US democratic institutions or criticizes China and its allies, according to lawmakers. A bipartisan bill backed by the White House was introduced Tuesday that would create a uniform process for reviewing and dealing with foreign-influenced technology. According to the measure, the Chinese parent company, ByteDance, could be forced to sell TikTok, or the platform could be banned altogether, although this would face significant obstacles.
The first suit, so-called Recht v. TikTok, was submitted in November. It was based on a report by Felix Krause, a software researcher, who found that the company was inserting lines of code that instructed the platform to copy user activities on external websites. Of the seven popular apps it tested — including Instagram, Snapchat, Amazon — it found that only TikTok tracked keystrokes.
The plaintiff named in the complaint, California resident Austin Recht, alleges that he clicked on an ad on a third-party website to purchase merchandise after providing personal information including his credit card information. According to the complaint, Tiktok “stealthfully collected data” related to activity on third-party websites accessed through the platform’s in-app browser.
Group actions detail how TikTok collects and collects data. The in-app browser injects code into the websites users visit in order to track “every detail [their] activities,” Recht claims.
“In the case of an online purchase, this would include all details of the purchase, the customer’s name, address, phone number, credit card or bank information, usernames, passwords, dates of birth,” the complaint states. filed in California federal court.
The data is not limited to purchase information, but also extends to users’ private health information, the suit claims. For example, when users click on a Planned Parenthood link on TikTok, their activity on the site is tracked and collected. This could identify users seeking abortion services or those seeking information about gender identity, according to the lawsuit.
TikTok is facing legal action for illegally collecting user data. In 2020, he was sued for allegedly violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, a state law that prohibits private companies from collecting biometric identifiers from users without prior consent. He settled the lawsuit for $92 million.
In response to lawsuits alleging violations of federal wiretapping law, Tiktok said the settlement included alleged class members who sued for violations of the Illinois Privacy Act because it “handled all user data collected through the app.”
Although the plaintiffs in the suit do not allege any injury, the federal wiretapping statute does not require proof of actual injury to recover monetary damages. The law prohibits the deliberate interception of communications containing personal data.
Some of the lawsuits also allege state violations of privacy and competition laws. A hearing on whether the lawsuit should be consolidated was set for March 30.
In California, TikTok could suffer massive damages if data leaks. Under California’s Consumer Privacy Act, companies that mishandle personal information are subject to statutory damages of between $100 and $750 per consumer per incident.
TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment.