Chinese social media platform Tiktok has been accused of transferring “vast quantities” of user data to China, despite its assurances that all data was stored in the US.
A class-action lawsuit filed in California said Tiktok “clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data”.
The legal action is a further blow for the social media company, which operates outside China but is owned by Beijing-based Bytedance.
Bytedance is already facing a national security probe by the US government over concerns about its use of personal data and potential censoring of politically-sensitive material.
The lawsuit, which was filed last week by a college student named Misty Hong, states that the transferred data could be used to identify, profile and track the location and activities of US users “now and in the future”.
Hong said she downloaded the Tiktok app in March or April 2019, but never created an account.
Months later, she alleges, Tiktok had created an account for her containing a dossier of private information, including biometric data gained from videos she created but never posted.
The lawsuit states that this data was then sent to two servers in China owned by Tencent and Alibaba.
It also accused the company of unfairly profiting from its “secret harvesting” of private data to generate “vast” revenue and profit from targeted advertising.
It comes days after Tiktok was forced to apologise to a US teenager who was blocked from the app after posting a video that criticised China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.
The move fuelled accusations that the company was censoring material that could damage Beijing’s reputation, but the firm insisted the incident was a result of a “human moderation error”.
Tiktok has been contacted for comment.