TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world right now, but the journey hasn’t been entirely free of hurdles. The app has faced criticism for a variety of reasons, and was even shortly banned in India before the ban was lifted by the Madras High Court. Now, the app, along with its parent company Bytedance, and Musical.ly (which was acquired by Bytedance in 2017 and rebranded as TikTok) are all being sued in the United States for allegedly mishandling personally identifiable data about children.
According to the class action lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the app failed to create adequate measures to prevent minors from using the service. Moreover, the app asked for their email addresses, phone numbers, first and last name, photos, and bios.
The lawsuit also claims that the app set the default privacy for new accounts to public, and even switching the account’s privacy to private allowed anyone on the app to search for the account-holder’s username, and access their photos and bios. Along with that, the lawsuit alleges that between December 2015 and October 2016, the app collected location data on users for a feature that “enabled Defendants and other users of the App to identify where a user was located.”
The complaint reads, “Because the App had virtually all privacy features disabled by default, there were serious ramifications, including reports of adults trying to contact minor children via the App,” It also adds that, “these reports exposed the dangerous potential of the App, which allowed adults posing as children to send inappropriate messages to minor children using the App.”
In an email to Gizmodo about the lawsuit, a TikTok 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.”
You can view the lawsuit here.