A London judge granted a 12 year-old girl anonymity so she can take TikTok to court over allegations the social-media company violated the European Union’s strict data protection rules. The London child “intends to go to a court asserting — rightly or wrongly — that her privacy rights and those of others like her have been infringed in ways that call for a remedy,” Judge Mark Warby said in a decision Wednesday.
Not granting her anonymity could “have a chilling effect on the bringing of claims by children to vindicate their data-protection rights.”. TikTok has come under increased scrutiny by several EU data watchdogs over children’s data, according to Bloomberg. The EU’s data-protection chiefs in June pledged to coordinate potential investigations into the Chinese company, establishing a taskforce to get a better understanding of “TikTok’s processing and practices.”
The planned suit is at a “very early stage,” but the intended claim “involves serious criticisms of what may be key aspects of the platform’s mode of operation,” Warby said. Given the popularity of ByteDance Ltd.’s social media app, such a suit could lead to “strongly-worded” opposition.
“Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok and we have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to protect all users, and our younger users in particular,” the company said in a statement. “As this application was made without notice,” TikTok became aware of the case earlier Wednesday and is now “considering its implications.”
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, who would bring the case on behalf of the London girl, said the minor would risk “direct online bullying by other children or users of the TikTok app” and “negative or hostile reactions from social media influencers,” if her identity was known, according to the ruling. The judge said such behavior “is reasonably foreseeable.”