European consumer group BEUC and 17 consumer groups from 16 countries on the Continent have complained about TikTok's conduct to the European Commission.
The complaints point at issues with copyright, data protection, the age of TikTok’s audience, the platform’s virtual currency, and misleading data processing and privacy practices.
The BEUC released two reports which describe the complaints in detail. One outlines the platform’s consumer protection issues and the other covers privacy and data protection.
"They are unclear, ambiguous and favour TikTok to the detriment of its users. Its copyright terms are equally unfair as they give TikTok an irrevocable right to use, distribute and reproduce the videos published by users, without remuneration," it said.
The reports claim the company's virtual item policy – users can purchase coins to buy virtual gifts in TikTok – contains unfair terms and misleading practices.
The BEUC also says that "TikTok fails to protect children and teenagers from hidden advertising and potentially harmful content on its platform."
The consumer group points out that TikTok “disclaims any responsibility over the security of personal data as it is transmitted on platform.”
“Anecdotal evidence suggests considerable disregard of the data protection by design requirement in the past,” it adds.
2⃣TikTok does not fully comply with key #GDPR principles
3⃣There are issues with consent and personalised advertising
4⃣The app allows extensive tracking. Device settings do not always respect consumer choices or protect consumers
5⃣TikTok does not sufficiently protect children
— Maryant Fernández (@maryantfp) February 16, 2021
“In just a few years, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media apps with millions of users across Europe. But TikTok is letting its users down by breaching their rights on a massive scale. We have discovered a whole series of consumer rights infringements and therefore filed a complaint against TikTok,” the BEUC's Director General Monique Goyens said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the video-sharing app owned by China’s ByteDance is trying to stay afloat in the United States.
The trouble began under the previous US administration when Donald Trump waged a trade war against China. Washington targeted ByteDance and WeChat's owner Tencent as well as dozens of other Chinese tech companies including big brands like Huawei, ZTE, SMIC, and Xiaomi over alleged national security concerns, even designating some of them as national security risks.
Washington alleged that the private data of Americans was being exposed through TikTok for ByteDance to share without permission with the ruling Chinese Communist Party. ByteDance and US executives at TikTok have repeatedly denied the claims.
The fate of the app still hangs in the balance, however, as the Biden administration is reviewing the matter.