We explain who qualifies and what you’ll need to do next.
The video-sharing app TikTok has agreed to pay out $92 million to settle lawsuits alleging the service harvested personal data from its users without their permission, and if you meet the relevant qualifications, you could be eligible for a piece of the pie. Here’s what you need to know about the case and how to submit a claim for your share.
What are the details in the case against TikTok?
It began with a number of lawsuits, many of them filed on behalf of minors, that claimed TikTok “clandestinely vacuumed up” private and personally identifiable data from its users, violating federal and state laws that require written consent before technology companies can mine personal details. The plaintiffs allege TikTok took this data without permission from users as young as 6 years old, then shared it with entities including Facebook, Google, and various companies in China.
After more than a year of legal battles, TikTok agreed in February to a class action settlement in which neither side was declared a “winner,” but the app’s parent company would pay up in order to settle the dispute out of court. “Rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community,” a TikTok spokesperson said at the time.
In addition to the sky-high payment — touted as one of the largest in history for a privacy case — the settlement includes agreements from TikTok that the company will no longer record users’ locations or biometric data, including the details of their faces, and will not send data of American users to foreign companies.
Who is eligible for a payout in the settlement?
This is a class action settlement, meaning millions of people qualify. Anyone in the United States who used the TikTok app before Sept. 30, 2021, is eligible. Adults can submit claims on the behalf of their minor children.
If you live in Illinois and have used the app to create videos (rather than just watching them) before Sept. 30, you’re also eligible for a higher payment that could be six times higher than what others receive. That’s because the state has a biometric privacy law that entitles its residents to further financial damages.
How much might I expect to get?
The total value of the settlement is a whopping $92 million, but because of the wide swath of qualifying users, individual payments are likely to be much smaller. As Newsweek explained in its analysis, the U.S. has an estimated 130 million TikTok users; if every one of them successfully applied for a claim, that would amount to about 70 cents per person — before legal fees are taken out of the payout. The total each person gets is ultimately dependent on how many people actually submit a claim.
If you do receive a payment, TikTok will provide it via PayPal, Venmo, a virtual prepaid card, or a physical check sent to your address.
If I qualify for the settlement, what should I do now?
The legal team handling this suit has set up this website for submitting claims. If you fall within the qualifications for the settlement, you now have the following options for how to proceed.
Submit a claim form: Use this page to submit your personal information for consideration as the payments are divided up. Your deadline to do so is March 1, 2022.
Exclude yourself: If you don’t want to settle and want to maintain your rights to sue TikTok on your own, separate from this agreement, you can opt out of the settlement class. That means you won’t receive any of the $92 million payout. To do this, you must put the request in a letter to be sent by mail and postmarked by Jan. 31, 2022. Specific instructions are available here.
Object to the settlement: This is different from excluding yourself from the settlement; if you object, you’re telling the court you do want to partake in the settlement, but there’s something about it that isn’t satisfactory or you’d like to change. To do this, you must send in a written statement of your objection by Jan. 31, 2022. More details here.
Do nothing: If you take no action at all, you won’t receive any part of the settlement, and you’ll also be waiving your right to pursue further legal action in the future (unless you take the steps now to formally exclude yourself from the settlement).
Really makes you rethink all those cat videos you watched during quarantine, right?