TikTok sued again, this time for 6 billion euros

TikTok has yet another indictment on its pants. The Mass Damage & Consumer Foundation states that the Chinese social network has collected and processed personal data of Dutch TikTok users ‘on a large scale, long-term and for commercial purposes. In doing so, the platform violated national and international law. That is why the foundation is demanding compensation of 6 billion euros.

‘No other company knows how to map your interests so accurately’

The foundation states that TikTok has only one goal in mind, which is to collect as much personal information from users as possible. With this data, the company creates profiles, which are then sold to advertisers. In doing so, the company violates various national and international rules. Specifically, the foundation refers to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Telecommunications Act, media and advertising law, and finally consumer law.

The Mass Damage & Consumer Foundation states that TikTok collects and processes the data of TikTok users, in particular of children, without a lawful basis. Also, the social network is not open and honest enough about the data it processes and does not apply the principle of data minimization, which is laid down in Article 5 of the GDPR. It states, among other things, that personal data must be processed in a manner that is ‘lawful, fair and transparent towards the data subject. Also, TikTok does not provide essential information and does not provide users with sufficient protection against hidden surreptitious advertising and harmful content.

Furthermore, the foundation claims that TikTok does not distinguish between advertisements and videos. The commercials on the platform are almost indistinguishable from normal videos. According to the foundation, this is due to ‘the unparalleled power of the algorithm’. “No other company knows how to map out your interests so accurately. A new player can never match that personal focus of videos,” the subpoena states.

Foundation demands compensation of more than 6 billion euros

In view of ‘the nature, seriousness, duration and intentional nature of the infringement’, Stichting Massaschade & Consumers are demanding substantial compensation from TikTok. The foundation is asking the court for financial compensation of 1,750 euros for children who were younger than 13 when they first used TikTok. Children and adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 should be eligible for an amount of 1,500 euros. Anyone who was 18 years or older would be entitled to compensation of 1,250 euros per person. Given the number of Dutch TikTok users, the compensation amounts to more than 6 billion euros.

“It is in this playing field that the Foundation requests your court to hold TikTok accountable for the way in which it respects the fundamental rights of children and adults on a daily basis, as well as the rights of European citizens as laid down in the GDPR, the Telecommunications Act and mandatory provisions. violates consumer and media law”, according to the Mass Damage & Consumer Foundation. The Foundation wants the court to make a ruling that is ‘sufficiently effective and deterrent’. The aim of the lawsuit is to ‘stop the wrongful acts by TikTok and to obtain compensation for the damage suffered by the persons whose interests it represents.

Consumers’ association files lawsuit against TikTok

Mass Damage & Consumer Foundation is not the first party to go to court and demand that TikTok pay compensation to Dutch users. At the end of August, the Consumers’ Association and the Take Back Your Privacy Foundation preceded her. In recent months, these parties have had back and forth conversations with TikTok about the privacy of children on the platform. Since these talks were fruitless, they saw only one way out: file a lawsuit.

“TikTok has scandalously abused children, some of whom are still very young. It misled them,  violated their privacy and made a gross profit on their backs. Pure exploitation, which must be compensated. And in a way that also acts as a deterrent for other companies that do the same,” said Sandra Molenaar, general manager of the Consumers’ Association, about the issue. The Bond and the Take Back Your Privacy Foundation, therefore, demand 2 billion euros in compensation.

SOMI also wants to see money

Then there is also a third party who wants to see money from the Chinese social network. At the beginning of June, the Market Information Research Foundation (SOMI) filed a claim of 1.4 billion euros against TikTok for large-scale violations of European privacy and consumer legislation. In its own words, the platform also does not comply with the transparency obligations arising from the GDPR. For example, the platform is not clear about what data it collects and for what purposes it uses this data. This restricts children from exercising their rights.

“It often seems fun and innocent, but TikTok is just a profile and advertising machine,” said lawyer Douwe Linders. “SOMI has a strong case and we will fight for the interests of its supporters. But a giant like TikTok will not give in easily. We have to be patient and work carefully.” SOMI claims to represent more than 64,000 parents across Europe.

AP hands out sky-high fine to TikTok

The Dutch Data Protection Authority has been investigating TikTok for more than a year. The privacy watchdog looked at whether the platform’s app has been designed in a privacy-friendly manner, what information the app collects and whether this is properly explained in the terms of use. The conclusion of the research is that TikTok is not transparent enough about the collection of user data.

In addition, the terms and conditions were presented in English. In the eyes of the supervisor, this should have been in Dutch. “This young target group brings an extra responsibility when it comes to using clear and simple language in all communication. After all, children deserve specific protection, which makes the use of clear and simple language extra important,” according to the supervisor.

For these reasons, the Dutch Data Protection Authority decided that a fine of 750,000 euros was appropriate. TikTok has announced that it will challenge the fine.

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