April 21 (UPI) -- The former Children's commissioner for Britain has filed a lawsuit suing TikTok for allegedly illegally collecting the personal information of millions of children who used the video-sharing smartphone application.
Anne Longfield filed the complaint Tuesday seeking more than 1 billion in damages from TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, on behalf of children in Britain and Europe who have used the application since May 25, 2018.
Longfield, who was the children's commissioner from 2015 to earlier this year, accused the smartphone application of being a data collection service thinly veiled as a social media network.
"We want to put a stop to TikTok's shadowy data collection practices," she said in a statement.
The lawsuit states TikTok, which has more than 800 million users worldwide, harvests children's information including telephone numbers, videos, pictures and their location as well as biometric data, such as facial recognition, without sufficient warning, transparency or consent required by law for the benefit of unknown third parties.
"TikTok is deliberately opaque about who has access to children's private information, which is incredibly valuable to the company," a website announcing the lawsuit said. "Its parent company, Cayman Islands-based ByteDance, is expected to make nearly $30 billion in 2020 with over two-thirds of this being advertising revenue involving the transfer of personal information."
The lawsuit said it is suing to stop TikTok from processing the information of millions of children, to delete all the information of minors it has and compensate the children affected, which it claims could equal thousands of dollars per child.
A TikTok spokesperson responded to the claim on Tuesday, saying it lacks merit and that they intend to "vigorously defend the action."
"Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok and we have robust policies, processes and technologies in place to help protect all users, and our teenage users in particular," the spokesperson said.