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US state sues TikTok over privacy and child safety violations


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Indiana’s attorney general on Wednesday sued Chinese-owned app TikTok for misleading users about China’s access to their personal data and for exposing children to sexual content in the first few days. state lawsuits against the popular video service.

Secretary Todd Rokita alleged that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, violated state consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that the Chinese government has the ability to obtain confidential information from users.

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His office said in a separate complaint that the app misled young users and their parents with its age rating of 12 and over in the Apple and Google app stores, when in fact inappropriate sex and drug-related content can be easily found and are offered by the company to children who use the application.

US authorities have fought for more than two years to ban the popular app or force it to change its ownership structure to reduce its affiliations with China. The app was included in the Biden administration’s effort to strengthen US technology supply chains and slow China’s rise as a global innovator and exporter of technology.

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The state of Indiana wants to impose fines of up to $5,000 per breach and has asked a state Superior Court to order TikTok to stop making false and misleading claims about its manipulation of data and stop marketing itself as an app suitable for teenagers.

TikTok declined to comment on the Indiana lawsuits, but its spokeswoman, Brooke Oberwetter, said “the safety, privacy and protection of our community is our top priority.”

TikTok has denied sending US citizen data to the Chinese government and has tried to distance itself from ByteDance, which bought the app, then known as, in 2017 for more than $800 million. Since then, TikTok has become a phenomenon, and by some estimates it has over a hundred million users in the United States and over a billion worldwide.

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is also on a sympathy campaign to assuage critics. He said US users’ data would be hosted on servers controlled by US cloud computing company Oracle and disputes that the Chinese government has access to that data.

Indiana’s attorney general said those assurances are unreliable because Chinese law gives the government authority to demand data from a US branch. TikTok promised in the future to delete all “protected” US users’ data from its systems, but the lawsuit said it was unclear what qualifies as “protected” data.

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