Jitterbug Overseas Version Involved in Violating U.S. Users’ Privacy, Pleads Guilty to $92 Million

TikTok, the overseas version of Jitterbug, has fallen on its heels again in the United States. TikTok’s parent company, Beijing ByteDance, has reached an out-of-court settlement with U.S. users over a lawsuit over privacy violations, according to documents released by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on 25 May, and will pay $92 million (about RMB 590 million) in settlement.

Citing court documents, The Wall Street Journal reports that after more than a year of litigation, parent company Beijing ByteDance has agreed to pay approximately RMB 590 million in a settlement in the U.S. state of Illinois in the lawsuit against TikTok, a popular global short-video App.

In 2020, teenage users in the U.S., including California and Illinois, filed 21 lawsuits against TikTok in Illinois.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, who represent 8-year-old users, allege that TikTok secretly collected biometric data from users and enhanced the precise delivery and recommendation of ads to users based on that data.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs also allege that TikTok’s storage of user data in China could lead to users in the United States being monitored by the Chinese government.

For its part, a TikTok spokesman said in a statement Thursday, “While TikTok disagrees with these allegations by the plaintiffs, rather than go through a lengthy litigation process, TikTok wants to focus on building a safe and enjoyable experience for its users.”

In the U.S., each state has different norms on privacy protection in the face of emerging social media platforms. Under Illinois’ biometric privacy law, the collection of biometric data from users without consent can be illegal. Last year, Facebook also settled with users for $650 million because of this Illinois law.

TikTok has more than 100 million users in the United States. TikTok’s lawyers expect that it will take several months to complete the settlement process.

In addition to the lawsuit, Reuters reports that the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are investigating TikTok for allegedly failing to comply with a 2019 agreement on protecting children’s privacy.