TikTok is facing a second mass claim in the Netherlands: the Take Back Your Privacy foundation
(TBYP) and the Consumentenbond laid down a damages claim of a staggering 1,5 billion euros. They
assert that TikTok is illegally collecting and trading children’s private information who are using the
social media platform. But what is the basis of the case, how is it progressing, and what can you as a
parent do to ensure your child's personal information remains private?
Interview with Friederike van der Jagt, Chairwoman of the Take Back Your Privacy foundation and
Damiën Berkhout, lawyer of the foundation and partner at Scott + Scott Attorneys at Law LLP.
Could you share a bit more details about the case? What is TikTok doing wrong exactly that initiated the €1.5bn claim from TikTok’s parent company ByteDance?
TikTok monitors children and illegally collects their personal data when they use the app, without their parental consent. Everything the child does on the app is closely monitored by TikTok and used for targeted advertising purposes. To say it bluntly: children’s data are used to make money.
TikTok does not properly inform children and their parents about what data they are processing and what do with the data. The company also transfers personal data outside the EU without having put appropriate safeguards for such personal data in place. TikTok violates among others the General Data Protection Regulation as well as European and Dutch consumer law legislation.
That TikTok is acting unlawfully is underlined by the fine issued by the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DDPA). On 22 July 2021 the DDPA confirmed it has fined TikTok for violating the privacy of young children. Previously regulators in the United States and Korea also imposed fines on the companies behind the app, and it is safe to say that TikTok now has a track record of infringing children’s rights.
Why are TBYP and the Consumentenbond taking it upon themselves to make this claim?
TikTok is simply taking advantage of children, who are especially vulnerable and generally do not appreciate how they are exposed when they use the app. Parents are also left in the dark by TikTok. TBYP and the Consumentenbond want to put a stop to this, ensure that the illegally obtained data is destroyed, and ensure that the victims are properly compensated.
What were the reactions you received regarding the claim so far? Do you get support from other foundations, organisations, or the public?
The response has been extremely positive. We are receiving support from parents who are signing up to support the claim. Moreover, other key privacy and children’s’ rights organizations are willing to publicly support the claim by TBYP and the Consumentenbond. This includes organizations such as the European consumer organization BEUC, Bits of Freedom, Terre des Hommes, Platform Bescherming Burgerrechten, Bureau Jeugd en Media, Kidsrights, the Waag, with more shows off public support to come.
How has the case been progressing so far, and did you receive any reaction from TikTok yet?
Yes, TikTok has received our claim and has indicated a willingness to have a meeting with us. We are now going to attempt to resolve this matter out of court if possible.
What is your plan for the next few months in regard to the claim?
We are gathering support from parents, children and several organisations in order to be well prepared should this case go to court. In case the negotiations with TikTok are not successful, we will vigorously pursue the rights of children in court. We expect to know within the next month whether litigation will be the necessary course, and call on parents to sign up and support the claim. Because the more support we have, the stronger we are.
What would be your advice to the parents of children using TikTok or other social media, how can they make sure their private information remains protected?
As a starting point it is important to stress that parents are not at fault. TikTok is creating an impossible situation by its behaviour, and is acting unlawfully. That being said, there are certain things that a parent can do to try and minimize the risks. First of all, you can find out whether your child is active on social media and if so, try to understand what they are doing. Talk with your children about the risks involved and check the privacy settings of the social media used by your children. And of course: sign up to our TikTok case if your child has been or is active on TikTok. Because together we can make a stand against the continuous privacy infringements made by TikTok, and we can show other parties that want to be active on the European market that they need to comply with the applicable privacy legislation. If not, not only the supervisory authorities might get involved, but you may also risk a collective claim such as ours. We hope and believe that collective actions such as the TikTok action will lead to more compliance and a safer internet for our children.