Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner for England, is suing TikTok regarding how it gathers and handles children’s records.
Millions of children in the UK and EU have used the hugely successful video-sharing service, according to the lawsuit.
If the case were good, the children involved may be owing thousands of pounds each.
TikTok said that the lawsuit had little validity and that it would contest it.
Lawyers will allege that TikTok collects children’s personal details, such as phone numbers, photographs, precise locations, and biometric data, without providing explanation, or the proper permission needed by law, and without the children’s or parents’ knowledge.
The video-sharing app responded by saying: “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.”
TikTok has over 800 million users globally, and its parent company, ByteDance, earned billions in earnings last year, with advertisement sales accounting for the overwhelming majority of it.
The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of all children who have used TikTok since May 25, 2018, regardless of whether or not they have an account or what privacy settings they have set. Children who may not want to be portrayed have the option of opting out.
Ms Longfield told the BBC that she was concentrating on TikTok because, although all social networking sites gather data, TikTok’s data collection practises were “excessive.”
She claims the company is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” which has “deliberately and successfully deceived parents”.
She went on to say that parents had a “right to know” whose private information is gathered by TikTok’s “shadowy data processing practises.”
Scott and Scott, a law company, is handling the litigation. Partner Tom Southwell believes TikTok’s data collection constitutes “a severe breach of UK and EU data protection law”.
This isn’t the first time anything like this has happened.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined the Chinese company a record $5.7 million in 2019 for mishandling children’s records.
The company has been prosecuted in South Korea for how it gathers data on children, and the Information Commissioner’s Office has questioned it in the United Kingdom.
Musical.ly, which was later absorbed by TikTok, was accused of intentionally hosting material created by users under the age of 13.
TikTok was told to delete the information and implement an age verification scheme.
Despite its rules prohibiting under-13s from using TikTok, 44 percent of eight to 12-year-olds in the UK use it.
Last year, an unnamed 12-year-old girl filed a lawsuit against TikTok, which was backed by Ms Longfield.
Ms Longfield said at the time that she was awaiting the outcome of another litigation before filing a lawsuit against TikTok.