TikTok Consumer Privacy Class Settlement Includes $92M Payout

Tiktok App -Getty -3- H 2020
MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images

TikTok has reached a deal that will resolve a class-action complaint over consumer privacy violations via its current app and its predecessor, Musical.ly, and, if approved by the court, the video-sharing social platform will pay $92 million into a settlement fund.

Amid the pandemic-prompted TikTok boom in the spring of 2020, a series of suits were filed by users of the service and parents of underage TikTokers. The matters were consolidated before an Illinois federal court, and on Dec. 18 an amended complaint was filed. The plaintiffs' allegations included that the app doesn't notify users that its filters and effects use facial scans that capture and store biometric data; that after a user records a video TikTok keeps a copy, even if the user never posts it, and there's no notification that any such transfer occurs; and that the app collects private and personally identifiable information and device data for the purpose of earning revenue through targeted ads.

Class members were seeking to define the class as either a nationwide group of all U.S. TikTok and Musical.ly users or all users who live in California, Illinois or any state with "materially similar consumer protection laws." As to the biometric privacy issues, there was also a proposed Illinois subclass for all users who reside in that state and used TikTok or Musical.ly to create one or more videos.

Details of the deal were announced Thursday after U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee on Wednesday gave class counsel the green light to file an oversized motion for preliminary approval. (Read the full motion here.)

In addition to the payout, TikTok has promised to initiate a new privacy compliance training program to protect users' data. Under the proposed settlement, users who were based in Illinois will receive a larger share of the funds because that state's Biometric Information Privacy Act bans the unlawful collection and use of biometric data like facial scans.

The settlement, which is posted in full below, also notes that TikTok has denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for the company on Thursday sent this statement to The Hollywood Reporter: "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."

In a joint statement Thursday, attorneys from FeganScott, Carlson Lynch and Bird Marella lauded the size and significance of the deal. "Social media seems so innocuous, but troubling data collection, storage, and disclosure can happen behind the scenes," said co-lead counsel Katrina Carrol. "This settlement sets out to prevent that.”

Lee will have to approve the deal before it's final, and a hearing is currently set for Tuesday.

Feb. 25, 3:20 p.m. Updated to include a statement from a TikTok spokesperson and details of the settlement.