- TikTok has been hit with a class-action lawsuit by a California student who claims the company surreptitiously amassed her data and then sent it to servers in China.
- She claims that she downloaded the app, but didn’t create the account. She alleges that TikTok then created an account for her without her permission using her personal data.
- TikTok has recently been under intense scrutiny from US officials because it is a Chinese company, and is currently subject to an army investigation over how it handles US user data.
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TikTok’s woes in the US are getting worse.
A class-action lawsuit was filed against the company in a California court last week, alleging that the company surreptitiously hoovers up user data and sends it to Chinese servers.
The shortform video app has exploded in popularity with American users – teens in particular – but in recent months the company has been under intense scrutiny from US lawmakers and officials. The US Army announced last week that it was investigating the company at the request of Sen. Chuck Schumer over how it handles user data.
This fresh legal challenge was not filed by a government entity however, but by a student in California. Misty Hong claims to have downloaded the TikTok app around March or April 2019. According to the suit, she played around with the app but never made an account, making a few draft videos but never uploading them publicly.
It is possible in the TikTok app to start making video before signing up for an account, but the app prompts you to create an account before you can actually post anything.
Hong claims to she discovered months later that the app had created an account for her, with the username "user" followed by a string of characters, and using her phone number as the account's password.
She also claims that TikTok took the videos she had drafted but never posted along with a mass of other private user data, and that that data was then passed along to servers in China.
TikTok was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.
The suit identifies a number of Chinese servers by name, and claims they are operated by Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba (neither company were immediately available for comment). The suit alleges that by storing US citizens' data in China, TikTok could be compelled by the government to hand it over.
TikTok has affirmed in the past that data belonging to its US users is stored on US servers, with a backup in Singapore.