TikTok Sued Over Biometric Privacy

Two minors in Illinois have sued social media platform TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, for allegedly violating that state's biometric privacy law by collecting users' faceprints.

“TikTok users are never told that Defendants collect, capture, receive, obtain, store, and/or use their biometric information,” the underage users -- identified by their initials “P.S.” and “M.T.W.” -- allege in a class-action complaint brought last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“Similarly,” they add, “users never gave consent for such use.”

Both of the users allege they have uploaded and posted videos to TikTok, and say they believe their faces have appeared in clips uploaded by other users.

The pair claims TikTok is violating the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act -- an 11-year-old law that requires companies to obtain written releases from people before collecting scans of “face geometry” and other biometric data. The measure provides for damages of up to $5,000 per violation.

The users point to two other ByteDance apps (VigoVideo and Douyin, used in China) that, the duo says, inform users that scans of their facial geometry will be collected. Those privacy policies show that ByteDance “knows how to inform users that it will collect facial landmarks and/or geometry,” the complaint alleges.

The plaintiffs add that ByteDance has previously “taken an evasive, often cavalier, approach to U.S. privacy laws.”

Among other examples, they point to the company's $5.7 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over claims that the company violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal information from children younger than 13, without their parents' permission.

TikTok isn't the only tech company to be sued for allegedly violating the Illinois biometric privacy law.

Facebook recently agreed to pay $550 million to settle claims that it ran afoul of the state law by compiling a faceprint database. Other companies, including Google, Vimeo, WeWork and Clearview AI are currently facing similar claims.

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