TikTok faces legal challenge from former children’s commissioner

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Former children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield has launched a multi-billion pound legal challenge against TikTok, accusing the video sharing app of illegally collecting children’s private information.

Former children's commissioner Anne Longfield has threatened legal action. Picture: Alex Deverill
Former children's commissioner Anne Longfield has threatened legal action. Picture: Alex Deverill

The legal claim is being launched against the social media app and its parent company ByteDance over “deliberately violating UK and EU children’s data protection law”, according to Longfield who recently finished her term as children's commissioner for England.

She is claiming that every child who has used the video sharing app since May 2018 has had their private information illegally collected by ByteDance and handed to “unknown third parties”.

This is regardless of whether children have a TikTok account or what their privacy settings are, said Longfield.

If successful TikTok could be forced to pay billions of pounds in damages, says Longfield, as the claim aims to win compensation worth thousands of pounds each for millions of children.

“TikTok is a hugely popular social media platform that has helped children keep in touch with their friends during an incredibly difficult year,” said Longfield.

“However, behind the fun songs, dance challenges and lip-sync trends lies something far more sinister.

“Parents and children have a right to know that private information, including phone numbers, physical location, and videos of their children are being illegally collected. 

“We want to put a stop to TikTok’s shadowy data collection practices, and demand that they delete all private information that has been illegally processed when children use the app.” 

Longfield’s claim is set to be brought alongside legal firm Scott +Scott.

Partner at the firm Tom Southwell added: “The information collected by TikTok represents a severe breach of UK and EU data protection law. Children do not understand how exposed they are when they use the app, and parents have been deliberately left in the dark by TikTok.

“TikTok and ByteDance’s advertising revenue is built on the personal information of its users, including children. Profiting from this information without fulfilling its legal obligations, and its moral duty to protect children online, is unacceptable.

“We hope that TikTok gives serious consideration to the gravity of the concerns of millions of parents and takes considerable steps to improve their practices in light of the issues raised by the case."

TikTok has been fined in the US for its handling of children’s data and has subsequently implemented age verification changes. However, the app has not introduced similar measures in the UK or Europe, say Longfield and Scott+Scott.

A TikTok spokesperson said: "Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok and we have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users, and our teenage users in particular. We believe the claims lack merit and intend to vigorously defend the action."

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