A class-action lawsuit filed in the US claims that social media platform TikTok has shared significant volumes of data with China.
The lawsuit, which was filed in California last week, alleges that the Beijing-owned video-sharing firm “vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data”.
This data, the complainants insist, could be used to identify and profile users on the platform. “TikTok’s lighthearted fun comes at a heavy cost,” the lawsuit asserts.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, boasts an active user base of around 500 million people globally. The app has taken the US by storm and is highly popular among teenagers and young people.
Concerns over the company’s alleged collection of data, as well as censorship issues on the platform, have seen the firm subject to intense scrutiny in recent months. Last week, TikTok apologised to an American teenager who was suspended from the platform for posting content highlighting the treatment of Uighur Muslims; a minority ethnic group in western China.
Earlier this year, TikTok was also fined £4.5 million by the US Federal Trade Commission for collecting sensitive information on children under the age of 13.
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The company has insisted repeatedly that it does not store US data on Chinese servers and, previously, TikTok claimed that all US-based user data was stored in-country, with backup servers hosted in Singapore.
Lawmakers in the US have been unconvinced by the firm’s claims, though. Concerns still linger over its ties to the Chinese Government despite an October statement insisting it had never been asked to remove content critical of the Beijing regime.