TikTok sued for violation of children’s rights
The Take Back Your Privacy Foundation (TBYP), in cooperation with the Consumentenbond, is taking TikTok to court. The organizations previously set forth demands against the company for violating the privacy and consumer rights of children. Discussions with TikTok did not lead to a settlement.
The Consumentenbond and TBYP demand that TikTok ceases all of its unlawful actions, deletes all illegally collected personal data, and pays damages to the children harmed by TikTok’s conduct. Two types of damages are to be paid by TikTok. First, a total amount of 2 billion EUR is claimed, to allow to pay to each affected child a fixed amount:
- €1,500 for each child who was under 13 when they started using the app;
- €1,250 for each child who was 13, 14 or 15 when they started using the app;
- €1,000 for each child who was 16 or 17 when they started using the app.
Second, TBYP and the Consumentenbond demand that TikTok pays as damages the profits the company has earned on the backs of Dutch children. In 2020, ByteDance, the parent company behind TikTok, made a profit of USD 19 billion.
“It is clear that TikTok does not take children’s privacy seriously”, says Friederike van der Jagt, chair of TBYP. “TikTok keeps sacrificing children’s privacy to make a profit. TikTok’s behavior has been especially egregious in light of how children isolated by the Covid lockdowns increasingly turned to the platform for social interaction, amplifying TikTok’s ability to illegally harvest their personal data.”
According to Sandra Molenaar, director of the Consumer Association, TikTok’s violations justify the amount of compensation demanded: “TikTok has scandalously abused the sometimes very young children. It has misled them, violated their privacy and made a huge profit on their backs. Pure exploitation, which they must be compensated for. And this must be done in a way that also acts as a deterrent for other companies that do the same.”
1.5 million children
TikTok, and its predecessor musical.ly, have been illegally collecting private data from children for years. This includes dates of birth, telephone numbers and email addresses, but also sensitive information, such as information about sexual orientation and religious beliefs and even biometric data (such as facial recognition). The company uses this data to sell advertisements. The company is also violating children’s consumer rights. According to research conducted by TBYP, TikTok has victimized more than 1.5 million Dutch children.
The Consumentenbond and TBYP are calling on consumers to support the action and sign up. This applies in particular to parents of children who have used TikTok or its predecessor, musical.ly, in the Netherlands since May 25, 2018. Signing up is free. Over 11,500 people have already signed up.
The action is supported by the European consumer organization BEUC, Terre des Hommes, Platform Bescherming Burgerrechten, Bits of Freedom, Privacy First, Defence for Children, Bureau Jeugd en Media, KidsRights and research institute Waag, among others.