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$92M biometric data privacy suit settlement agreement reached by TikTok


tiktok app biometric data collection

A tentative deal has been reached for TikTok users to settle their biometric data privacy lawsuit against the app for $92 million, according to an announcement from the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

TikTok was sued under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) for running facial recognition technology on content uploaded to the social media platform without meeting the informed consent requirements of the state law. Lawyers involved told NPR last year that a settlement was likely prior to any sale of the app, which was under threat of closure if its parent ByteDance did not find a buyer. That threat has since been rescinded by the new Presidential administration.

The deal also includes injunctive relief in the form of disclosures by TikTok and a new requirement of data privacy compliance training for all the company’s employees and contractors. A third party will review the compliance training for the next three years. The app will not collect biometric data, geolocation or GPS data on users, or transmit American user data outside the country without disclosing that it is doing so and ensuring compliance with all relevant laws.

Responding to the tentative agreement, TikTok’s representatives said the company disagrees with the plaintiff’s assertions, but would rather settle than continue with a lengthy litigation process. TikTok has argued its users agreed to waive their class action rights and arbitrate any claims against it when they agreed to its terms of service.

TikTok argues not only that its notice and consent practices were adequate under BIPA, but also that it did not collect biometric identifiers from users, or share sensitive U.S. user data with the Chinese government. The face detection tool it uses does not perform any identification-related function, according to the company, but instead is used to place visual effects in videos.

The agreement covers different classes for users in Illinois and those elsewhere in the U.S., with roughly 1.4 million and 89 million members, respectively. Plaintiffs in the 20 consolidated cases say they will seek awards of up to $2,500 for each class representative, and attorney fees of no more than 33 percent.

The agreement is still subject to approval.

Facebook’s original BIPA settlement deal was rejected before the addition of $100 million secured its approval.

TikTok also faces scrutiny in other countries for its data collection practices, and settled with the FTC in 2019 for $5.7 over allegations of children’s privacy violations.

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