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Both sides in TikTok’s biometric privacy lawsuit tell judge their settlement stinks


tiktok app biometric data collection

Lawyers for TikTok Inc. users who claim their biometric privacy has been violated by the video-sharing app maker say a proposed $92 million class-action settlement could be nullified by TikTok’s terms of service.

The attorneys were responding March 24 to a request for more information by U.S. District Judge John Lee, who last month put on hold preliminary approval for the settlement.

Users objected to how Chinese-owned TikTok allegedly used facial recognition software to capture their face biometrics and then shared them with third-party companies, including some based in China, all without consent. Many of the app users were children.

According to an article by trade publisher Law360, Lee wanted to know how legal teams on each side arrived at their decision.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys are quoted in the Law360 article saying that in agreeing to $92 million, they took into account the “substantial risk of forced arbitration” imposed by TikTok’s terms of service.

An arbitration clause and a waiver in that contract would mean “effectively valuing all asserted claims at $0….”

At least one plaintiff unhappy with the TikTok settlement, however, who is represented by Jay Edelson of Edelson PC, feels that $92 million for a case involving 89 million class members is insufficient, particularly compared to the Facebook result.

For their part, TikTok lawyers have said they would welcome the opportunity to get a smaller settlement.

They said their client agreed to the settlement in the immediate aftermath of a Trump administration executive order seeking to ban TikTok’s operation in the United States because the company is too cozy with China’s authoritarian government, which puts a lesser value on individual rights.

The team essentially was negotiating the settlement under political duress.

Indeed, TikTok has maintained that it does not make use of data from U.S. users for face templates or identifiers. That is a reference to Facebook, which recently settled a biometric privacy case under Illinois’ landmark Biometric Information Privacy Act for $650 million.

It is not a coincidence that the TikTok case involves Illinois ]residents too. Nor is it a surprise that Edelson is co-lead plaintiff counsel of the Facebook settlement.

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