Data protection problems of TikTok

United States

In December 2019, a class action lawsuit is filed in California Federal Court against ByteDance, and Tiktok. According to the complaint, TikTok illegally and covertly collects vast amounts of personal data, which is then transmitted directly to China. Accused of maintaining an "ambiguous" privacy policy, TikTok Inc. and its parent company ByteDance would notably collect drafts of videos from users without their consent, and transfer them to various domains, including China, without letting the user know. The user is aware of this even before the video is recorded or published. The complainants fear that the aggregated data could then be used to identify users, establish their profile and track them, in particular because they often contain close-ups of faces, therefore allowing the platform to collect reusable biometric data in targeted advertising. Some of the data collected includes phone number, social media profiles, email and IP addresses, geographic location and a lot of other information, and TikTok would continue to collect biometric data and personal information even after the website is closed.

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European Union

In June 2020, the European Committee for Data Protection announces it will investigate the treatment and protection of data TikTok by its owner ByteDance following an interpellation MEP Moritz Körner.


In August 2020, France in turn looked into the functioning of TikTok following a complaint lodged with the CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés) concerning a request to delete a video. However, the CNIL's investigation should focus more broadly on compliance with the GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) by TikTok.

Data protection and child safety

United States

In February 2019, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined ByteDance for violations by (which later merged with TikTok) of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. would have illegally collected the names, email addresses, photos and other data of children under 13, without first obtaining parental consent, and would have left them publicly accessible, giving rise in particular to attempts to sexual predation by adults. The $ 5.7 million fine is the highest fine imposed by the FTC for acts relating to children's privacy. ByteDance is committed to obtaining parental permission before collecting children's personal data, and to removing all videos and information belonging to users under the age of 13, as well as those whose ages are not known.

In May 2020, several consumer groups accused TikTok of not having solved the problem, many videos of children under 13 among those denounced in 2019 having not been deleted. They add that TikTok's new service for children under 13, which does not a priori collect any data and on which they cannot post videos, can be bypassed by a child who deletes their account and then creates one. Another on the same phone using a fake date of birth.


In May 2020, the Dutch data protection authority opens an investigation to check whether the information provided on the collection of children's data is sufficiently comprehensible and detailed.

United Kingdom

In February 2019, the Office of the Information Commissioner of the UK opens investigation TikTok following the fine imposed by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States for illegal gathering and public sharing of child data under 13 years old. The commissioner says she is studying the platform's data collection, the type of videos made and shared online by children, and the platform's messaging system, which is completely open. In particular, she expresses concern about the possibility for adults to send messages to all children, and claims that the company may be in violation of the General Data Protection Regulation (RGPD), which requires it to provide differentiated services and protections for children.

National security issues of TikTok

In October 2019 in the United States, Republican Senator Marco Rubio , who is worried about “Chinese influence operations” that TikTok could carry out, in particular through censorship for the benefit of the Chinese government, requests the opening of an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). This should relate to the consequences for national security of the takeover in 2017 of the application by ByteDance, which then merged it with TikTok in 2018. The start of an investigation on is then reported in the press, where it is reported discussions between CFIUS and ByteDance on so-called "mitigation" measures, which would prevent the company from having to divest from The CFIUS had a few months earlier asked a Chinese video game company, Kunlun Tech, to resell the homosexual dating platform Grindr, in particular for fear that the Chinese government would use personal information to influence American officials.

On September 13, 2020, Oracle Corporation won the tender for the U.S. operations of video-sharing app TikTok, defeating Microsoft Corporation in a high-profile deal to save a social media sensation. In addition, Oracle has advertised itself as TikTok's “trusted technology partner” in the US, and the deal does not need to be structured.

Content and customs related problems of TikTok

Sexual content

One of the controversies surrounding the application is that of encouraging narcissism and hypersexualization of its users, often very young. Consequently, it could be a platform of choice for sexual predators.

In Egypt, two influencers are arrested for having created accounts and published videos that incite immorality and behaviour that goes against Egyptian family values. Another is arrested on similar charges and charged with human trafficking for trying to recruit other influencers to "meet people" and "post entertainment videos" for money, thus inciting young people girls to commit "inappropriate" acts by taking advantage of the difficult economic situation.

In India, where the application brings together more than two hundred million active users in March 2019, or 43% of the total at this time, it is going through several controversies. In 2018, it was accused of promoting pornography and paedophilia, due to the growing number of adolescents and young adults portraying themselves in sexualized positions or scenarios. The controversy made all the more noise as it broke out in a country very attached to the moral and religious values ​​of Hinduism. In April 2019, the Madras High Court accuses the app of spreading pornographic content and TikTok removes around 6 million controversial video.

In September 2019, internal documents obtained by the daily The Guardian reveal the instructions related to child pornography. In the case of videos flagged as depicting minors, if the moderators are unable to determine whether the victim appears to be under 18, they are asked to consider them to be an adult by default. Andy Burrows, expert and campaigner for child protection online, criticizes what he sees as a "cavalier approach”, particularly because TikTok recognizes clearly in these internal documents the existence of videos representing people who appear underage in "sexy outfits" or “Seductively dancing” , even using the expression “underage pornography”. ByteDance responds to these revelations by asserting that this document is no longer valid and that it has since decided to treat as such videos of a sexual nature which appear to show minors.

Hashtag # Autismchallenge

In May 2020 users’ tiktok launched under the hashtag # Autismchallenge, a parody of the movements and facial expressions of people with autism, through faces and clumsy imitations of dances. This challenge is described as “humiliation”, and provokes a reaction from certain sections of the people who considers this challenge “appalling”.

Islamic State propaganda

In October 2019, the Wall Street Journal daily noted that the jihadist organization Islamic State (IS) was posting propaganda videos on 20 accounts showing, among other things, corpses displayed in the streets and armed IS fighters. The accounts would have less than 1000 subscribers. The information is then confirmed by an anonymous contributor TikTok, which states that 10 accounts were deleted, without giving information on 10 other accounts, and that most of the videos had a very small number of views. TikTok claims that accounts promoting terrorist organizations have no place and that their authors will have their accounts and devices blocked.

Harassment and assault issues of TikTok

Several users denounce problems of harassment, as well as racist and anti-Semitic attacks.

In April 2020, TikTok is removing users under 16 from the app's private messaging system, following controversies over cyberbullying of minors and pedophilia. This measure is however criticized as being easy to circumvent.

In June 2020 the French network users launch #balancetontiktokeur hashtag denouncing sexual harassment they had experienced. Faced with the platform's inaction, the French secretary of state in charge of gender equality Marlène Schiappa contacts her leaders for France to ask them to take action against the harassers. She claims that they did nothing in the face of thousands of testimonials, and that she asked them to ban those implicated in a preventive manner, as the streaming platform Twitch did, as well as to put the victims in contact with justice or associations. In the media, TikTok officials respond by claiming that they suspend users who break the rules, unlike other platforms 

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