"TikTok clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data that can be employed to identify, profile and track the location and activities of users in the United States now and in the future", the complaint said, concluding that "TikTok's lighthearted fun comes at a heavy cost". Reportedly, American users of the app have come forward with numerous allegations regarding its recent censorship misconduct as well. According to the complaint, the publisher ByteDance would collect user content like unpublished videos without the consent of users and rely on very ambiguous terms around privacy.
The platform, known for its quirky short format videos, has been accused by Misty Hong, a college student, who alleges that the firm and its China-based parent company, ByteDance, neglected their duty to handle user data with care and "knowingly violated" a series of statutes governing data gathering and the right to privacy.
"These apps infiltrate users' devices and extract a remarkably broad array of private and personally-identifiable information that Defendants use to track and profile users for the objective of, among other things, targeting them with advertisements from which Defendants unjustly profit", the lawsuit claims. TikTok removed the video once it went viral and later claimed it was by mistake. This student downloaded TikTok in April 2019 but never created an account herself.
A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges the app "includes Chinese surveillance software". The Chinese social networking platform has denied these claims as it faces a national security probe in Washington.
TikTok maintains that it "stores all U.S. user data in the United States with backups in Singapore", according to Reuters.
TikTok published a response to this in an unsigned blog post in which the company stressed its independence from China.
The senators stated that they feared that TikTok would be forced to adhere to Chinese laws which would "compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party".