On Monday, August 22, 2022, a federal court judge in Illinois entered final judgment after granting final approval of a groundbreaking $92 million settlement between TikTok, and its parent company, ByteDance, Inc., and consumers who use the app. The settlement resolves claims that the popular video-sharing app violated federal law and Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by unlawfully collecting users’ biometric information and private data and disclosing that information to third parties without notice to consumers.
In addition to the cash settlement that will be provided to TikTok users impacted by the companies’ actions, the agreement requires TikTok to create a data privacy training and compliance program for new employees and contractors as well as institute an annual employee privacy training.
According to Elizabeth Fegan, co-lead counsel representing the plaintiffs and managing partner of FeganScott, this settlement is a harbinger of the importance of protections for consumer privacy as technology advances, especially facial recognition software.
“The first generation of data privacy lawsuits involved holding organizations accountable for data breaches, but this case heralded a shift to new and more troubling aspects of data privacy protection,” Fegan said. “In this class action suit, we alleged that TikTok’s technological sophistication enabled them to collect billions of user attributes, ranging from eye color to people’s facial expressions and physical gestures and use that data without disclosure to the consumers.”
The case was originally filed in June 2020 in Illinois, a state that has one of the nation’s most pro-consumer, pro-privacy laws overseeing the collection of biometric information, defined as physiological traits such as fingerprints, facial patterns, or voice cadence.
The settlement, approved by the Honorable John Z. Lee of the Northern District of Illinois, creates a $92 million fund to be distributed among class members. The amount of each individual settlement depends on the number of consumers who submit claims. Because of Illinois’ biometric privacy law, each Illinois class member will receive an additional five shares compared to other class members nationwide.
“The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) is a powerful, progressive law that is a model for other states,” Fegan said. “We expect that, as the use of biometric information increases, the law will become even more important to safeguarding privacy. This $92 settlement should put the violators and potential violators on notice that there are real consequences for collecting and using personal identifiers without notice to the consumer.”
The court certified two settlement classes: the nationwide class and the Illinois subclass that includes all persons who reside in the State of Illinois and used the app in the State of Illinois to create videos prior to September 30, 2021. For more information about the settlement, visit the settlement website at www.tiktokdataprivacysettlement.com.