According to a new class action lawsuit, TikTok has “tracked, collected, and disclosed the personally identifiable information" of children under the age of 13 without parental consent, in order to generate profits. The complaint, filed on Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that TikTok, Musical.ly (as the app was known before) and its parent company ByteDance ignored “thousands” of complaints from parents that their kids were using the app without their permission.
As reported by Gizmodo, the lawsuit also alleges that Musical.ly and TikTok failed to create proper safeguards to prevent minors from using the app, which resulted in "children being stalked [online] by adults."
COPPA — The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives parents control over the types of information sites and apps can collect from their kids. Under COPPA, developers cannot legally track or obtain private data of children under 13 without parents' consent, and the lawsuit claims that Musical.y and TikTok were collecting email addresses, phone numbers, usernames, first and last names, short bios, and profile pictures of kids. Sure, that's all basic information required to sign up for most apps, but the key argument here from the plaintiffs is that their kids did not have their consent, and that Musical.ly and TikTok refused to acknowledge their complaints.
The bubble is bursting — In recent months, TikTok has sort of become the darling of the social media space, thanks to lighthearted, funny videos that can range anywhere from goofy dances to "OK Boomer" memes. But, as the company grows at an incredibly rapid pace, it's only going to get more scrutinized by the public, media and governments — especially when you consider that its owner is an obscure Chinese company. Just this week, TikTok was accused of limiting the reach of users with disabilities and others who identify as queers on its app, though it claims it did so as an anti-bullying measure.
As for what TikTok says about this class action lawsuit, a spokesperson said, "TikTok was made aware of the allegations in the complaint some time ago, and although we disagree with much of what is alleged in the complaint, we have been working with the parties involved to reach a resolution of the issues."