Translated by
Nicola Mira
Dec 4, 2019
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TikTok accused in California of transferring personal user data to China

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Dec 4, 2019

A student at a Californian university has initiated a class action lawsuit against social media app TikTok, which she accused of collecting huge volumes of personal data from its users and of storing the data in China.

The use of personal data collected by TikTok has been questioned - Shutterstock

“TikTok clandestinely siphons off huge quantities of personal data and transfers it to servers in China,” states the complaint, as seen by the AFP agency.

Misty Hong, a student at Palo Alto University, filed the complaint with a Californian federal court last Wednesday, according to information reported by The Daily Beast website.

TikTok, a video sharing app that is hugely popular with teenagers around the world, is owned by Chinese group ByteDance. “Such data may be used to identify US-based users, to know where they are and what they do, now and in the future. In other words, the fun promised by TikTok comes at a very high cost,” is stated in the complaint.

Is there proof?

TikTok is fighting various legal battles at the moment. At the beginning of November, a US federal agency opened a national security enquiry over the acquisition by ByteDance of Musical.ly, an app with which TikTok was merged in 2018.

According to an anonymous New York Times source, the US government has proof that TikTok is sending data off to China.

Hong is adamant that the app has picked up her personal data without permission - including videos she created but hadn't shared online - and then uploaded them to servers run by companies which cooperate with the Chinese government.

She filed her complaint in the name of all US citizens who downloaded TikTok, approximately 110 million people.
Contacted by AFP for comment, TikTok did not immediately reply.

In November, the app stated it couldn’t comment on any enquiry by a US agency, underlining however that “no priority is more important [for TikTok] than earning the respects of our users and of the regulators in the USA.”
TikTok also distanced itself from the Chinese authorities, stating that its servers are located outside China and therefore the “data” they hold “isn’t subject to Chinese legislation.”

At the start of 2019, TikTok topped the 1 billion downloads mark worldwide except for in China, where the sister app is called Douyin, according to mobile app marketing research firm Sensor Tower.

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