TikTok May Owe You a Chunk of Its $126 Million Data Breach Settlement

TikTok May Owe You a Chunk of Its $126 Million Data Breach Settlement
Photo: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / Contributor, Getty Images

TikTok just agreed to settle a massive $US92 million (around $126 million) class action lawsuit, and anyone who used the app prior to Sept. 30 of this year could be entitled to a payout.

Back in June, Gizmodo reported on TikTok’s quiet attempt to tweak its privacy policy in a way that allowed for it to automatically collect troves of voice and facial data from U.S. users. And indeed, in a series of 21 lawsuits, most of which had been filed on behalf of minors, plaintiffs accused TikTok and its now-defunct sister app, Musical.ly, of utilising a “complex system of artificial intelligence to recognise facial features in users’ videos” that the app, in turn, used to “determine the user’s age, race/ethnicity, and gender … to recommend content and profiles for the user to follow.”

“By utilising this private and biometric information,” reads court documents related to the case. “TikTok maintains a competitive advantage over other social media apps and profits from its use of improperly obtained data, all while failing to comply with the minimum requirements for handling users’ biometric data…”

In Illinois, where the suits were filed in U.S. District Court, the Biometric Information Privacy Act grants people the right to sue companies that access their biometric data without consent.

Although TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has denied that it ran afoul of the law, it agreed to settle the suits in order to avoid going to trial.

“While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community,” the company said in a statement.

On Monday, TikTok alerted users via an in-app banner ad to the existence of a website, TikTokDataPrivacySettlement.com, where affected, eligible users over the age of 18 can submit a claim by March 1, 2022. Claimants can be located anywhere in the United States, but those living in Illinois could be eligible receive up to six times more money.

TikTok boasts around 1 billion users worldwide, with about 80 million of those users located in the U.S. and therefore eligible to claim part of the payout. Again, that settlement is $US92 million ($126 million), so if we’re just doing quick back of the napkin maths here, that doesn’t necessarily amount to a huge payout (assuming everyone who’s eligible does in fact file a claim, that is). It’s also not necessarily a huge chunk of change for ByteDance, which is reportedly worth some $US250 billion (roughly $344 billion), according to Bloomberg.

As part of the suit, TikTok has also agreed to stop disclosing users’ personal data to third parties like Facebook and Google, according to NBC News, and will also cease to record users’ facial features and track their location using GPS.