TikTok Trials Continue Around the World (and Montana)

TikTok, the popular social media platform known for its short-form videos, is facing legal trials in multiple countries over data privacy concerns. The company has been accused of collecting and sharing user data with third-party companies without users’ consent, raising concerns over the protection of user privacy.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has denied any wrongdoing and has stated that it takes user privacy seriously. However, the company’s reputation has been damaged due to these legal challenges, and it faces the possibility of fines and penalties if found to have violated data privacy laws. According to CNN, “Security experts say the government’s fears, while serious, currently appear to reflect only the potential for TikTok to be used for foreign intelligence, not that it has been. There is still no public evidence the Chinese government has actually spied on people through TikTok.”

In the United States, TikTok faced a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019, alleging that the company illegally collected personal information from children under the age of 13. The company settled the lawsuit for $5.7 million and implemented changes to its platform to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Four days ago in Montana, “Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill last Wednesday banning TikTok in the state” beginning January 1st of next year according to CNN.com. That doesn’t mean everyone’s happy about it. Five TikTok users (though not the app itself) are challenging the ban. “A court battle over First Amendment rights kicked off in Montana on Thursday after a group of TikTok users challenged the state’s new TikTok ban, which is set to take effect Jan. 1 and is the first of its kind in the nation” according to the New York Times

Precedent is also not with Montana. In 2020, a judge sided with TikTok users and blocked the ban of TikTok that former president Trump enacted. In that case, both TikTok and it’s owner, ByteDance also sued to prevent Trump’s ban. TikTok itself has declined to give a comment on the possibility of the app itself filing a suit against Montana.

You don’t need to be worried about the possibility of a Virgina TikTok ban. As of right now, it’s only banned on state government-issued devices, according to ​​WRIC. However, if Montana wins their suit, it could inspire other states to follow.

TikTok is also facing legal challenges in Europe, with the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) launching multiple investigations into the company’s data privacy practices. In August 2020, the DPC began an investigation into how TikTok handles children’s data and whether the company complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Some believe that China has access to TikTok’s data, or that China pushes propaganda and disinformation through the popular app. Others believe that these allegations are unfounded and are unfairly speculative. It has also been argued that it is the federal government’s job to monitor foreign threats such as this, and should not be decided at the state level.

As TikTok continues to grow in popularity, it is likely that more legal challenges will arise. The company will need to place stronger data privacy protections to make sure that its users’ personal information is kept safe and secure.