Once Again, TikTok Sued Over Surreptitious Data Collection Practices

A class action complaint filed late last week has taken on TikTok, its parent company ByteDance, and other related entities over what it claims is an egregious abuse of user data. In particular, the lawsuit accuses TikTok of secretly capturing the activities and personally identifying information of TikTok users on third-party websites reached through TikTok in-app web browser.

The Central District of California lawsuit recounts how TikTok rose to popularity with its app through which users view, create, and share short videos. It also details how Chinese-United States relations complicated the app’s usage owing to the government’s concern of national security and surveillance threats. ByteDance is based in China.

Indeed, in July, TikTok settled allegations that it illegally sent user data to third-parties including the Chinese government. The $92 million settlement requires the company to make changes to its data handling practices, among other things.

In last week’s complaint, the Californian lead plaintiff accused TikTok of illegally harvesting data obtained when he visited a third-party website advertised on the video sharing app. The man subsequently purchased merchandise from the website via TikTok’s in-app browser where he completed his purchase and entered his private data, including his credit card information.

“Defendants surreptitiously collected data associated with Plaintiff’s use of third-party websites without his knowledge or consent, including his contact and credit card information provided during Plaintiff’s purchase of merchandise,” the complaint says.

From a technological perspective, the filing alleges that TikTok secretly embedded JavaScript insertions that track user activities. The social media platform operator allegedly did so while “failing to disclose that the in-app browser modifies the source code of websites that users visit using the in-app browser in order to copy every keystroke, and/or interaction with the website, and the contest of those interactions.”

On behalf of a nationwide class and a California subclass of TikTok users who also used TikTok’s in-app website browser, the filing states claims for relief under the Federal Wire Tap Act, the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, for invasion of privacy, and for unfair business practice law violations.

The plaintiff is represented by Baron & Budd P.C. and Don Bivens PLLC.