TikTok Owner ByteDance Agrees to Pay $92 Million to Settle Privacy Case

TikTok Owner ByteDance Will Pay $92M to Settle Illinois Privacy Case
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TikTok Owner ByteDance Will Pay $92M to Settle Illinois Privacy Case
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Photo Credit: Alexander Shatov

TikTok owner ByteDance has agreed to pay $92 million to settle an Illinois privacy case.

A class-action lawsuit was filed against ByteDance for violating Illinois privacy laws. Those laws require a company to get citizens’ consent before collecting data. The lawsuit alleges that TikTok broke those consumer data harvesting laws, including via facial and fingerprint scanning.

Illinois is currently the only state with a law that allows its citizens to seek monetary damages for unauthorized data collection. Only three states, Illinois, Texas, and Washington, have regulations regarding collecting biometric data. Texas and Washington don’t allow individual lawsuits but rather delegate the issue to the attorney’s general.

TikTok says it disagrees with the settlement but prefers it to “lengthy litigation” to decide the privacy case.

“While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through with lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community,” the company said in a statement regarding the outcome of the lawsuit. Facebook has also agreed to pay a $550 million settlement because of the same law in February.

Privacy advocates point to the Illinois law as a robust model for national protection. The debate over privacy protection in Illinois could very well shape laws on the national level if Congress explores data protections.

TikTok may face more scrutiny on the national stage as TikTok vs. Trump becomes TikTok vs. Biden. Biden is now listed as the defendant-appellate in that case, which stems from an August 2020 executive order from former President Trump. The measure sought to ban transactions within TikTok because of national security concerns.

Judges blocked the order in September, along with an order for the removal of TikTok from the App Stores. That order was upheld in December, giving the Commerce Department little recourse to enforce the executive order. Biden’s appearance on court documents suggests the federal government isn’t giving up, though.

Language in the new filing suggests it is reviewing the Commerce Department TikTok restrictions. If the government finds a national security threat, then the August executive order still warrants “the identified prohibitions.”

TikTok was previously fined $5.7 million in 2019 for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Hackers who have reverse engineered the app have warned that it is “legitimate spyware.” The app collects a massive amount of data about its users, including personal information and contacts on the device.