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The legal claim is led by Anne Longfield OBE. Anne was the Children’s Commissioner for England between March 2015 and February 2021. Her role involved working closely with policymakers to promote and protect children’s rights, with a focus on the most vulnerable young people in society.
During her role as Commissioner, she played a prominent role in campaigning for greater online privacy for children, as well as highlighting the potential harms arising from children’s use of social media platforms such as TikTok.
Anne is acting as a ‘litigation friend’ for the lead claimant, a 12-year-old girl who uses TikTok. In December 2020, a court ruled that the lead claimant should remain anonymous due to the risks of cyber-bullying on social media she and her family may face if her identity was revealed.
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Any child under the age of 16 (under 13 in the UK) who was resident in the UK or other countries in the European Economic Area and used or continues to use the TikTok and/or Musical.ly app since 25 May 2018 is included in the Class.
The research conducted in support of this claim suggests that there are over 3.5 million affected children in the UK alone.
Go to the class page.
The legal claim is against entities in the ByteDance group, which is the parent company of TikTok.
The claim seeks to prevent ByteDance and TikTok from continuing to illegally collect and process children’s private information in this way, and order TikTok to permanently delete children’s personal data. The legal claim is also seeking compensation for children whose data protection rights have been allegedly violated while using TikTok.
A representative action is a type of collective legal action. In a representative action, the representative or lead claimant brings a claim on behalf of a group of people who have been harmed in the same way.
This means that members of the class can have their claims determined by the court without each member having to bring their own individual claim. Representative actions often allow people to bring a claim against powerful organisations where they would not otherwise be able to individually.
For this legal claim, the lead claimant is an anonymous 12-year-old girl who uses TikTok. Anne Longfield OBE is acting as her litigation friend.
TikTok faces accusations of violating the UK Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK GDPR (post-Brexit) by failing to provide adequate safeguards to prevent illegal processing of children’s private and personal information. We also believe that TikTok has provided an incomplete and misleading picture to young users about the use of the personal information they collect.
We believe that TikTok is collecting children’s personal information without:
Children’s personal information illegally collected by TikTok is extremely valuable to advertisers. This data enables advertisers to target their ads more effectively at TikTok users including children who use the app. TikTok turns a profit from this private information: its parent company ByteDance’s annual revenue, is projected to be nearly $30 billion in 2020. Based on public reports, as much as two-thirds of this revenue appears to come from advertising.
The legal claim argues that TikTok is deliberately opaque about the extent of personal information it collects and about the unknown third parties which benefit from the data illegally collected by the platform.
Ultimately, it is up to parents to decide what course of action they want to take. Our legal claim does not aim to stop everyone using TikTok: the app has played a helpful role in keeping children in touch with their friends during an incredibly difficult year. Our focus is to ensure TikTok plays by the rules, not stopping it altogether.
The legal claim aims to stop TikTok from illegally collecting and sharing children’s personal information, force TikTok to delete the children’s data that has been collected illegally, and win compensation for all affected children.
TikTok is the product of a merger between two previously-existing, competing applications that both enabled users to create and share short singing and dancing videos set to well-known songs: “Musical.ly”, launched by Musical.ly Inc. in China in 2014; and an application derived from and based upon “Douyin”, created and developed by ByteDance and launched in the Chinese market in 2016.
In November 2017, ByteDance purchased Musical.ly Inc. In August 2018, ByteDance effectively merged the Musical.ly and TikTok applications, migrating the extensive existing Musical.ly users to its own application and consolidating both under the name “TikTok” outside China. As a result of this merger, the “Musical.ly” name no longer exists in the mobile application market, although the claim covers a period in which Musical.ly was still an independent app.
This legal claim is being brought on behalf of children under the age of 16 (under 13 in the UK) that had their personal and private information illegally collected while using TikTok. Children are particularly vulnerable when using the app, and cannot legally consent to their personal information being collected like this.
We believe that TikTok collects children’s phone numbers, physical location, videos, pictures and other personal information without seeking their parents’ consent. This is prohibited under EU and UK law, specifically the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK Data Protection Act 2018.
We are seeking justice for those impacted. This legal claim will force TikTok to lift the veil on the extent of children’s personal information it collects, and for what purposes, and ultimately prevent a social media giant from exploiting children who are particularly vulnerable online.
Under the EU’s data protection law, the GDPR, the age of digital consent is 16 years old. This means that children who are below this age require their parents’ consent to agree to their personal information being processed.
However, this digital age of consent differs between different countries. According to the UK Data Protection Act 2018, for example, children under 13 cannot legally consent to their data being used. This means that, since May 2018, all children in the UK that were aged 13 or under when they used TikTok may have had their personal information illegally collected.
The research conducted in support of this claim suggests that there are over 3.5 million children in the UK alone that may have had their private information collected illegally by TikTok.
The claim has been brought in the English High Court, Queen’s Bench Division, Media and Communications List. The Media and Communications List was created in 2017 and has responsibility for cases involving data protection law and misuse of private information.
This claim against TikTok and ByteDance has been fully funded by a third-party litigation funder. Without this funding, challenging TikTok’s illegal collection of children’s private information would not be possible. Parents do not have to pay any legal costs.
Nothing. The case is fully funded, so there will be no cost to parents of affected children, even if it is unsuccessful.
If you, or your child, fall within the definition of the class, you will be entitled to your share of the damages if the legal claim is successful.
The online safety of children has always been a pressing issue, but even more so as a result of the COVID-related lockdowns. Platforms like TikTok have enabled children to communicate with each other during this period. However, social media giants and tech companies are not above the law.
There have been concerns about the private information that TikTok collects for years, but nothing has substantively changed. This legal claim seeks to bring an end to TikTok’s illegal harvesting of children’s personal information as soon as possible, and win compensation for the children who were affected.
Ultimately, the court will decide the amount of compensation that will be awarded if we are successful. However, based on the approach of the UK courts to date, we estimate that the total amount of damages per affected child could be in the thousands of pounds.
Parents of children using TikTok do not have to do anything at this stage, but they can register to receive updates on the progress of the litigation. Anne Longfield OBE and the lawyers at Scott+Scott, are representing everyone affected.
If you would like to receive updates when there are significant developments in the legal claim, register your interest on this website and tick the relevant box to receive more information. If you register your interest but choose not to receive updates, or if you do not register your interest, you can check this website for updates and announcements.
Signing up for updates on the case as a parent will not prevent children from continuing to use TikTok. The legal claim does not seek to prevent ByteDance from offering the TikTok app, but to provide a version of it that protects children’s private personal information and that is compliant with UK and European data privacy law.
Yes. All children who were under 16 (under 13 in the UK) when they used the app since 25 May 2018 were affected, even those without an account.
The duration of legal proceedings varies on the procedural steps required and the timetable of the court. It is likely that the legal claim will take at least three years to resolve.
When you register your interest on this website, you can elect to receive updates about any substantive developments as the legal claim progresses. If you elect to receive only essential messages where action is required, you can still track the progress of the claim on this website, which will be updated regularly.
All children in the the UK or EEA that have used TikTok, regardless of whether or not they have an account, or their privacy settings, are automatically included in the legal claim. Those affected but who wish to pursue their own legal action will be given the opportunity to opt out of the claim at a specified point in the proceedings. The class will be notified of this opt-out date and will be given a reasonable period to opt out.
There are a number of organisations dedicated to protecting children online that publish useful information for parents. The NSPCC has published a useful guide, including tips for parents to protect children online. The Children’s Commissioner for England also has tips and information on their website about empowering children online. Mumsnet also provides advice on how to keep your kids safe online.