TikTok owes a lot of people money. Not at some vague point in the future, but right now, thanks to a recent class action lawsuit. But given that everyone’s phone is blowing up all the time with scams and other garbage, it may register as untrustworthy when you get a notification saying you just got paid. Is something bad going to happen if you try and spend this so-called “money”?
Nope. It’s just regular old money, and it’s real. Certain users of TikTok (or Musical.ly, as it used to be known) are suddenly noticing that they’ve just been awarded an amount of money equivalent to a family meal at a fast food restaurant. Maybe you vaguely remember this was happening from reading news stories a year ago about money coming at some point. Well, we are now at that point.
What is the TikTok data privacy settlement?
You can read the full text of the settlement here, but the broad strokes go like this:
ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, got hit with a class action lawsuit back in 2019 for what the plaintiffs viewed as a violation of children’s privacy rights under the federal Video Privacy Protection Act, meaning ByteDance had allegedly been disclosing which videos had been watched by which specific person. And it also alleged violations of Illinois’ unique biometric tracking act that makes it illegal to distribute a “faceprint,” if you will. From 2014-2019, the suit alleged, the owners of Musical.ly, and later TikTok, failed to acquire consent from the parents of users under 13.
The 2019 suit came after the Federal Trade Commission had already won a separate $5.7 million settlement of its own from ByteDance over similar violations earlier that same year. Part of their settlement with the FTC resulted in TikTok removing content posted by kids under 13.
In February of 2021 ByteDance agreed to a $91 million settlement, despite maintaining its innocence. That meant that users of either app from 2014 through Sept. 30, 2021 were eligible for an imminent payout…pending one or two more legal maneuvers. Then in August of 2022, a judge named John Lee of the Northern District of Illinois approved the settlement. Ah, but there were still nagging appeals to resolve.
Then, according to TikTokDataPrivacySettlement.com, a website affiliated with the legal team organizing the suit, the final appeal was dismissed on Oct. 12, at which point ByteDance must have started writing checks, because the “settlement administrator” started distributing money two weeks later — which was Wednesday, when people started seeing their bank accounts getting $27.84 heavier.
Who gets money from the TikTok data privacy settlement?
First of all, it’s too late to get your money if this is the first you’re hearing of this lawsuit. March 21, 2022 was the deadline to submit a claim, according to TikTokDataPrivacySettlement.com.
The next thing to know is that how much money is coming your way, having already filed your claim, depends on whether or not you were in Illinois during the time covered by the suit. If you’re in the “nationwide class,” meaning you live in the US and used the app prior to Sept. 30, 2021, you get $27.84. If you were in Illinois, and you not only used TikTok, but created videos before Sept. 30, 2021, then lucky you: You get $167.04.
So if you still haven’t gotten your money, keep watching the PayPal or Venmo account you used in your claim, or wait for an email or push notification that says you received a payment. $27.84 and $167.04 aren’t life-changing sums for most people, but hey: Enjoy a modest night out on ByteDance’s dime. You’ve earned it.