TikTok $1.1M Settlement Over Kids' Data Denied Final OK

By Kevin Penton
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Law360 (March 30, 2021, 4:05 PM EDT) -- TikTok and a class of parents and children who claimed that the short-form video app collected and shared personally identifiable information about minors without parental consent did not receive final approval for a proposed $1.1 million settlement after the judge found that new deadlines in the case were not publicized.

The Northern District of Illinois last March ordered that the deadline for class members to submit claim forms be extended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the proposed class did not update the settlement website and the settlement administrator did not appear to accept claim forms based on the new timeline, according to Monday's order by U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey.

"Clearly, other members of the class, upon seeing the incorrect deadlines featured on the settlement website, may have mistakenly believed that they had missed the opportunity to exercise their legal rights with respect to the proposed settlement," Judge Blakey wrote. "And the settlement administrator, operating under the wrong deadlines, may have also ignored class members who did attempt to exercise their rights in a timely fashion."

The judge ordered that the deadline be extended at least another 77 days, during which time new claims may be filed and class members may object to the proposed settlement or seek to be excluded.

Judge Blakey on Monday also rejected a bid by a member of the proposed settlement class to intervene and appoint his attorneys as class counsel, determining that the objector failed to overcome the presumption that he already has adequate representation, according to the order.

The parents initiated the case in December 2019, shortly before filing the proposed settlement with the court. They alleged that when TikTok started as an app known as Musical.ly, users were asked to provide their email addresses, phone numbers, usernames, first and last names, short bios and profile pictures.

Even though users — including those under the age of 13 — could opt to make their profiles private, their usernames, profile pictures and bios "remained public and searchable by other users," according to the complaint. With features that allowed users to communicate via direct message or video chat, the app "allowed adults posing as children to send inappropriate messages to minor children," the complaint said.

Under the proposed settlement, TikTok and its parent company would pay $1.1 million into a settlement fund, with estimated cash payouts for class members ranging from $10 to $15 after attorney fees and the requested $2,500 award for each named plaintiff.

Counsel for the parties could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The class in the Illinois case is represented by Gary M. Klinger, Gary E. Mason and David K. Lietz of Mason Lietz & Klinger LLP.

TikTok is represented by Anthony J. Weibell of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC and Steven P. Mandell of Mandell Menkes LLC.

The case is T.K., through her mother Sherri LeShore, et al. v. ByteDance Technology Co. Ltd. et al., case number 1:19-cv-07915, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

--Additional reporting by Celeste Bott and Hailey Konnath. Editing by Steven Edelstone.

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