How TikTok’s $92 Million Settlement Shows Data Privacy and Personalization at Odds

Data privacy and personalization are often at odds. Consumers crave personalization, but that requires collecting and analyzing high volumes of sensitive data. How much data is too much data? And how can companies build amazing customer experiences while adhering to privacy laws?

This privacy paradox is a prime example of the latest news headline where popular social media app TikTok has agreed to pay a $92 million settlement after improperly collecting and using biometric data. 

According to Gizmodo, TikTok had discreetly changed its privacy policy in a way that allowed the app to automatically collect voice and facial recognition data from US users.

Unaware that their biometric data had been collected and used without their consent, all US users who used TikTok prior to September 30, 2021 are eligible for part of the payout, and Illinois residents are entitled to 6x the amount since Illinois is the only state in the country that allows users to “sue companies that access their biometric data without consent” through the Biometric Information Privacy Act.  

In a series of 21 lawsuits, plaintiffs had accused TikTok and it’s sister app, of using “artificial intelligence to recognize facial features in users’ videos,” which were then used to “determine the user’s age, race/ethnicity, and gender… to recommend content and profiles for the user to follow.”

TikTok stated that “while we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through a lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community.” As part of the lawsuit, TikTok has also agreed to stop sharing its users' personal data to third parties and tracking their GPS locations. 

There’s a fine line between privacy and personalization, and finding that right balance is difficult for most companies to do. Boasting 80 million users in the US alone, this privacy violation is grave – and one that all of us can learn from. In order to deliver meaningful and relevant customer experiences, companies must adopt better confidentiality and privacy measures. 

Consumer trust is the currency of any business. To learn how to secure your data, visit


Tu Phan