A 79-page ruling from the Illinois federal court overseeing the multidistrict privacy litigation against TikTok approved the $92 million settlement, accompanying “broad” injunctive relief, and the attorneys’ fee award. The decision comes after several opt-out and objector filings that stirred controversy amongst the parties.
As previously reported, the case centers on millions of Americans’ use of the social media and entertainment app known as TikTok, formerly, “Musical.ly,” through which they view, create, and share short videos. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs’ use of the app came at the expense of their privacy rights because TikTok illegally harvested their sensitive personal and biometric information to track and target them and sometimes provided that data to third-parties.
The complaint stated claims under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and its California analogue, the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, the Video Privacy Protection Act, California consumer and business practice laws, and for some litigants, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.
The case settled in February 2021, when the plaintiffs moved for approval of the settlement covering a nationwide class and an Illinois subclass. The court greenlighted the settlement in the Fall of 2021, whereafter the notice and claims submission periods commenced, ending with receipt of approximately 1.4 million claims.
The court explained that after overruling the mass opt-out objection filed on part of several thousand people, there were four objections to address with regard to the final approval requirements. In one instance, the court dismissed an objector’s assertion that Class Counsel, and in particular, Co-Lead Counsel Katrina Carroll, “maneuvered behind the scenes to secure a windfall for the Illinois Subclass at the expense of the Nationwide Class.”
Judge John Z. Lee reviewed the objector’s submissions and concluded “that they contain little more than conjecture and do not legitimately call into question the adequacy of Class Counsel’s representation of the class.”
In addition, the court overrode objections to the notice plan, whereby a minor objector contended “that the target audience of the media notice campaign, which had a median age of 33.7, was too old.” Over the objector’s proffer of statistics showing that more than 50% of TikTok users are between 10 and 29 years old, the notice plan intended to notify parents of many younger TikTok users, rather than the younger users themselves, which Judge Lee said made sense.
Notably, the court rejected the bid by the minor objector’s counsel to obtain fees in connection with the firm’s claim that their client was “responsible for the ability of under-13 class members to participate in this settlement.” However, Judge Lee gave Loevy & Loevy credit for improving the notice program and awarded it $100,000 in fees.
TikTok is represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.