The Indiana Office of the Attorney General (AG) filed lawsuits on December 7 against the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok for deceiving users about China’s access to their data and exposing children to inappropriate explicit content.
According to AG Todd Rokita, the short-video sharing app owned by ByteDance has violated the state’s consumer protection laws by not disclosing the Chinese government’s potential to access sensitive consumer information.
Additionally, TikTok deceived young users and their parents with its age rating of 12-plus in Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The app makes sexual and substance-related posts easily accessed with its algorithm that promotes content “depicting alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; sexual content, nudity and suggestive themes; and intense profanity.”
“TikTok is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the court documents stated. “As long as TikTok is permitted to deceive and mislead Indiana consumers about the risks to their data, those consumers and their privacy are easy prey.”
Rokita said the lawsuits are the first ones launched by a U.S. state against ByteDance.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said via an email to the Washington Post that “youth well-being” was part of the company’s policies, including age-limited features and tools for parents to control what the children can view.
“While we don’t comment on pending litigation, the safety, privacy and security of our community is our top priority,” Oberwetter said. “We are also confident that we’re on a path in our negotiations with the U.S. government to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns, and we have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) head Chris Wray said last month that TikTok poses a national security concern. The Brandon administration has also been talking with TikTok officials for months to protect the data of its hundreds of millions of users in the United States.
Recently, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed an executive order, which took effect immediately, that prohibits state employees and contractors from accessing the app via state-owned devices. (Related: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem bans TikTok on state-owned devices, citing app’s intelligence gathering operations.)
“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us,” the state head said in a statement. “The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data of the devices that access the platform.”
Earlier in the year, Buzzfeed reported the leaked audio files from 80 internal small-group TikTok meetings that showed U.S. user data has been repeatedly accessed from the communist country between September 2021 and January 2022, at the very least. Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher emphasized that ByteDance is controlled by the CCP.
TikTok facing $29 million fine for failing to protect children’s privacy
The United States is not the only place where the app is being scrutinized. TikTok is also facing legal challenges in the U.K., where it could face a £27 million ($29 million) fine for failing to protect children’s privacy when they are using the platform.
According to an investigation conducted by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the app may have breached between May 2018 and July 2020 the data protection law, where one has a right to be informed about how data is being used and object to how data is processed in certain circumstances.
As per the regulator’s “provisional view,” the app may have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without parental consent and failed to provide proper information to its users in a “concise, transparent and easily understood way.” It may have also processed special category data, such as ethnic and racial origin, political opinions, religious beliefs and genetic, biometric or health data, without legal grounds to do so.
Information Commissioner John Edward said: “We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections. Companies providing digital services have a legal duty to put those protections in place, but our provisional view is that TikTok fell short of meeting that requirement.”
If the company were to be fined the said amount, it would be the largest in ICO’s history, exceeding the record £20 million ($24.5 million) handed to British Airways two years ago after an incident in 2018 that saw the personal details of more than 400,000 customers compromised by hackers.
In response, TikTok disagreed with the provisional findings. “While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the U.K., we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course.”
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Watch the video below that talks about TikTok being a national security threat.
This video is from the Chinese taking down EVIL CCP channel on Brighteon.com.
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