Social Media Giant TikTok Sued for Allegedly Transferring Teens’ Data to China

Clay Curtis
December 4, 2019

The short video making app, TikTok, is facing a lawsuit charge which claims that it harvests users' data and sends it back to China. "Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the USA and brief Congress on these findings". As the amount of downloads grows, concerns are rising for TikTok users who have recently learned that Chinese law grants authorities in Beijing wide-reaching search-and-seizure powers.

A class-action lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by college student Misty Hong against TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

Months later, however, she realized that an account had been made for her without her knowledge or consent, and that the five or six videos she'd made none of which she'd saved or posted - had allegedly been transferred to Chinese servers, some of which were controlled by third parties that worked with the Chinese government. What's especially alarming is that the plaintiff says though she downloaded the TikTok app in March or April of 2019, she never actually created a TikTok account. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to investigate the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to determine if it poses "national security risks".

TikTok did not comment on the class action suit when requested.

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The lawsuit also accuses ByteDance of taking user content such as draft videos without their consent and having "ambiguous" privacy policies.

TikTok has repeatedly said that the Chinese government has no access to the company's user information, because the social media giant reportedly stores US user data in Virginia, with some backup in Singapore.

Videos in particular, often taken closely, would profile the faces of users for facial recognition purposes.

Earlier this year, the United States government opened a national security investigation into ByteDance's acquisition of social media app Musical.ly, which has since been rebranded as TikTok. CFIUS could force ByteDance to divest TikTok's U.S. operations if it is found that the company poses a national-security threat.

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