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TikTok and Parent Company ByteDance, Inc. Hit with $92 Million Settlement for Users’ Privacy Issues, According to FeganScott

TikTok and Parent Company ByteDance, Inc. Hit with $92 Million Settlement for Users’ Privacy Issues, According to FeganScott

Settlement is one of the largest in privacy class action cases

A federal court in Chicago granted preliminary approval of a $92 million class action settlement on behalf of users of the TikTok app, and its predecessor application Musical.ly, over claims the social media company wrongfully collected users’ biometric information and private data, according to FeganScott. The social media company then allegedly disclosed users’ private data and information to third parties violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), the federal Video Privacy Protection Act, and other consumer and privacy protection laws.

Biometric identifiers are physiological traits such as fingerprints, facial patterns, or voice cadence. They can be used to verify a user’s identity and are thought to be more reliable than other forms of identification. This is against the law in Illinois.

The settlement includes a $92 million fund to be distributed to class members, a requirement for TikTok to make disclosures to consumers under certain circumstances, and for the company to initiate a newly designed data privacy compliance training program for all TikTok employees and contractors.

“A decade ago, we were concerned about companies like TikTok collecting email addresses and data on shopping behavior,” said Beth Fegan, managing member of the FeganScott Law Firm. “Now, the level of sophistication these companies employ has increased exponentially — they collect billions of user attributes ranging from eye color and facial expressions, to how a person moves or gestures.”

The court provisionally certified two settlement classes:

  • Nationwide Class: All persons who reside in the United States who used the App— the TikTok video-sharing application (or its Musical.ly predecessor) distributed in the U.S.— prior to September 30, 2021.
  • Illinois Subclass: All persons who reside in the State of Illinois and used the App in the State of Illinois to create videos prior to September 30, 2021.

Katrina Carroll, a partner at Carlson Lynch, argued the case in Illinois Federal Court with the Honorable Judge John Z. Lee presiding. Carroll said, “In a world where social media apps track our locations, record our conversations and surreptitiously log our preferences, we need to ensure customers are aware of how their data is being stored, used and sold for profit. Our hope is that this settlement will focus attention on the need for informed consumer consent before their biometrics are collected, and incite other states to enact laws similar to Illinois.”

The Illinois subclass recognizes the state is one of the few in the U.S. that has enacted strong, pro-consumer privacy laws through the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). BIPA mandates that companies that seek to collect biometric data must first obtain informed consent. Further, BIPA provides for statutory damages.

Ekwan Rhow, a partner at Bird Marella, affirmed that “this settlement is one of the largest ever achieved, in a consumer BIPA case, and one of the largest settlements in privacy class action.” He continued, “It serves as a reminder, to corporations, that privacy is important and that they will be held accountable for violating consumers’ rights.”

Members of the Illinois subclass will receive six pro rata shares of the settlement fund in recognition of BIPA, while members of the nationwide class will receive one pro rata share of the settlement. The value of those shares, or the amount of compensation to each class member, will be determined by the number of those who submit claims.

After claims are submitted and statements in support of or in opposition to the settlement are received, the court will hold a final fairness hearing on May 18, 2022. For more information about the settlement or deadlines, and to submit a claim, TikTok and Musical.ly users should visit the settlement website at www.tiktokdataprivacysettlement.com.

The consolidated cases are led by class counsel appointed by the court, including Elizabeth Fegan of FeganScott LLC, Katrina Carroll, Carlson Lynch LLP, and Ekwan Rhow, Bird Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C.

About FeganScott LLC:

FeganScott is a national class action law firm dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse, discrimination, consumer fraud, antitrust violations and more. The firm is championed by acclaimed class action and veteran attorneys and has successfully recovered $1 billion for millions of victims nationwide. FeganScott is committed to pursuing successful outcomes with integrity and excellence, while holding unjust parties accountable. To learn more, visit www.feganscott.com.

About Carlson Lynch:

Founded in 2004, Carlson Lynch has earned national acclaim for complex litigation for plaintiffs in cyber security, anti-theft and consumer protection. The firm’s philosophy is to provide the same quality of representation to consumers and other individual plaintiffs as the nation’s largest defense-oriented law firms provide to their clients. The result is a practice that is both tough and sophisticated, advising diverse clients against some of the most aggressive legal teams in the country. Carlson Lynch has offices in Pittsburgh, San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. www.carlsonlynch.com

About Bird Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C

Established in 1981 and based in Los Angeles, Bird Marella is one of America’s premier litigation boutiques. The firm and its team of experienced trial lawyers handle complex high-stakes – and often high-profile – civil litigation for both plaintiffs and defendants nationwide, as well as white collar criminal litigation for corporate and individual defendants. The common theme in Bird Marella’s cases is not the underlying legal issues but the sophistication of the challenge and the need for innovative and insightful representation through trial. To learn more, please visit www.birdmarella.com.

Mark Firmani
feganscottpr@firmani.com

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