TikTok Presses Judge To Toss Privacy Claims Over Pixel Tracking

Social app TikTok is again asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit by California residents who claim the company wrongly tracked them on sites operated by Hulu, Etsy, Rite Aid and other outside companies.

“None of plaintiffs’ privacy claims have merit and all should be dismissed,” the app, owned by the Chinese-company ByteDance, argues in a motion filed last week with U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Blumenfeld, Jr., in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

“Plaintiffs point to no misrepresentation that gave anyone a reason to expect privacy, no sensitive information that was actually collected, and no allegation that anything personally identifying was shared,” TikTok said in its new motion.

The company's papers come in a lawsuit dating to May, when California resident Bernadine Griffith alleged in a class-action complaint that TikTok's pixel -- a tool publishers can install on their sites to collect ad-related data -- enables the company to compile information about web users, regardless of whether they have accounts with TikTok.



Some of her allegations drew from a September 2022 Consumer Reports investigation concluding that TikTok partnered with other companies “to hoover up data about people as they travel across the internet.”

Griffith, a non-TikTok user, alleged that the company “secretly intercepted and collected” her browsing and search data from sites including the streaming service Hulu, online marketplace Etsy, and retailer Build-a-Bear Workshop. She also alleged that TikTok's technology allows it to collect information about users even when they attempt to prevent tracking by blocking cookies set by third parties -- meaning cookies set by web companies other than the one a user has deliberately visited.

Her complaint included claims that TikTok violated a computer fraud law as well as California's constitution (which gives residents a right to privacy).

Last month, Blumenfeld said Griffith could proceed with some claims, but dismissed others -- including one relating to computer fraud. The dismissals were without prejudice, meaning Griffith could beef up allegations and bring the claims again.

She -- along with four other non-TikTok users -- then filed an amended complaint that included additional details, as well as some new claims.

Late last week, TikTok urged Blumenthal to throw out the entire lawsuit -- including the privacy-related claims he previously said could go forward. The company argues the amended complaint doesn't indicate that TikTok collected data that was either sensitive or personally identifiable.

“Collecting a lot of non-sensitive information that is not associated with any particular person does not, without some promise otherwise, violate any expectation of privacy or offend societal norms,” TikTok contends.

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