TikTok, Snapchat settle for millions in privacy lawsuits

Tech

(NewsNation) — Social media giants Snapchat and Tiktok could soon be paying millions to users after settling class action lawsuits over privacy.

Both companies are accused of illegally collecting users’ biometric data and disclosing it to third-party companies without consent.

On Wednesday, a judge approved a $92 million settlement with Tiktok.

Earlier this week, Snapchat agreed to a $35 million settlement for Illinois residents who used the app’s lenses or filters since Nov. 17, 2015, the Rockford Register Star reports. The issue in Snapchat’s case, according to the newspaper, is that every time a user takes a selfie or uses a filter, their facial features are scanned.

Meanwhile, plaintiffs in TikTok’s case said the app and ByteDance, the China-based company that created it, surreptitiously harvest and profit from collecting the private information of users in violation of numerous federal and state privacy laws.

The class action suit is divided into two classes of nationwide users, and is a combination of 21 different lawsuits filed on behalf of children in Illinois, with complaints dating back to 2019.

Elizabeth Fegan, attorney for FeganScott LLC, which brought the lawsuit, said the kind of biometric information TikTok collected included people’s eye color, race and facial features. TikTok then sold it to Google and Facebook, Fegan said, so the social media companies could target users with ads.

“They weren’t disclosing that to their users,” she said.

In the settlement with TikTok, it agreed to pay $92 million to those who used the app before September 2021 who also filed a claim by this past spring. Reuters said about 1.2 million TikTok users submitted claims. That claims rate is higher, Reuters wrote, for a subclass of Illinois residents who said the app violated the state’s biometric privacy law.

In previous court filings. Tiktok denied all the allegations and said it has never shared U.S user data with the Chinese government.

“While (TikTok) didn’t admit everything that we had accused of doing, It did recognize that changes were needed,” Fegan said. “Ultimately, it was willing to pay $92 million to rectify what we allege was a real problem.”

Fegan’s advice for concerned parents is to look at TikTok’s privacy disclosures, which have since been implemented. These will tell them how their children’s information is being used, she said.

“It’s really critical for parents to be looking at that and determining whether the use of their child’s information is right for their family,” Fegan said. “If you are using Tiktok you are in effect consenting to the use of your information.”

Only those who submitted claims last spring are eligible for a slice of the TikTok settlement, but Snapchat users have some more time: They can submit a claim form until Nov. 5.

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