SOMI Newsletter - September 11th, 2021
SOMI has the largest following and the lowest participation fees in the TikTok campaign!
As the first organization to do so in the EU, on June 2nd 2021, SOMI has served a summons to take TikTok to court for violations of children’s privacy and failure to comply with GDPR obligations. In following-up to this initiative, last week two other foundations have initiated comparable claims against TikTok in The Netherlands.
SOMI would like to use this statement to clarify our stance in these proceedings.
We believe this is a positive signal that more initiatives are being launched against privacy violators such as TikTok. After all, these lawsuits are, or should be, initiated for the benefit of European consumers. As non-profit organization, we share goals with other foundations to exercise consumer rights and to hold TikTok and other data processing entities accountable for GDPR transgressions.
However, our opinion is also that instead of competing for any exclusive representation of any particular claim in this field, consumer activists and their organizations have a moral duty to work together continuously in order to build the strongest representation possible. For this reason, SOMI has requested continually, as she will be requesting in court, for cooperation with other plaintiffs to bring justice for those who have suffered damages.
The differences that distinguish this action by SOMI from those of others against TikTok are as follows: there are currently over 18,000 participants from The Netherlands and over 64,000 from the remainder of EUR countries that so far have subscribed with us to join our action and claims. This in comparison to Take Back Your Privacy (approximately 12,000 per September 1st, and Consument & Massaschade (less than 1,000 per aforementioned date).
According to the Dutch Act on Collective damages claims (WAMCA), injured parties not residing in The Netherlands may join the Netherlands class by ‘opting-in’ at a later point in these proceedings. Therefore, SOMI does not only represent the interests of residents in The Netherlands, but – with our claims as well as with our collective data requests – SOMI is also representing European citizens as a whole.
SOMI claims from TikTok the following amounts of damages per victim: for children up to 13 years € 2,000, for children aged 13-15 € 1,000, and for children aged 16-17 years € 500.
Ultimately, it will be up to the court to determine what the final amounts should be. As a starting point, we estimate personal damages of minor TikTok users in The Netherlands to amount to a total of approximately € 2.1 billion, out of which SOMI would seek up to 20% as representation fees to cover its procedural and organizational costs, including our campaign costs in preparation thereof.
By doing so, SOMI ask the lowest maximum fees from its participants. We expect that this fee proposal, in combination with our efforts for European citizens as a whole, is the principal reason why SOMI has the largest number of participants of the three Netherlands foundations now rallying against TikTok.
In the period of the start of SOMI (July 2016) to date, SOMI has been operating on a fully self-funding basis. Self-funding has given us ample autonomy and freedom in our actions and in our choice of campaign methods.
As we have now been increasing the significance as well as the scope of our campaigns, we are now seeking for an external financing partner for all our actions in the area of privacy and data autonomy.
SOMI specifically seeks European-based funding that prioritizes the interests of European citizens, and whose commercial interests do not pose a conflict to our advocacy. In short, in comparison, we do not seek private equity capital that pays for a non-profit organization to act as a front and to shut up, as is the case with other foundations in this field. SOMI is highly committed to the fundamental human rights of data autonomy and privacy. Now and in the future, we aim to serve and protect the fundamental rights of consumers and minors who use online services.
Aside from our claim against TikTok, SOMI is currently also investigating possible GDPR violations by Facebook, TikTok and Zoom as well as the European governments’ reliance on U.S. Palantir software, analysis and support.
Since October 2020, SOMI has launched an app that restores ownership and control over personal data to all people whose data are or have been processed within the European Union. This is guided by the overriding principle of SOMI: All your data. All yours.
The SOMI app also shows data involved in previous data leaks by the aforementioned companies and offers continuous online support for any data processing entities seeking to provide full GDPR compliant data services.
More information about the claim, including the timeline and official documents, can be found on https://tiktokclaim.org.
First decision TikTok claim
On July 28th, the District Court of Amsterdam denied Stichting Consument & Massaschade its request for extension of the current 3-month waiting period, at present set to expire at September 3rd, 2021. Stichting Consument & Massaschade had requested an additional 3-month extension of this waiting period for interested parties to join the claims initiated by SOMI. On behalf of SOMI, SOLV Lawyers argued that this request for further extension was not in the interests of TikTok users and furthermore that it had been insufficiently substantiated. The court concurred with the latter point of view. (Download PDF).
1. What’s the next step in this action?
The next step in this collective action is the introduction of an 'exclusive representative', to lead the proposed legal procedure, as there are now 3 separate actions filed against various TikTok entities. The exclusive representative – any single entity or combined collective of co-representating organisations plaintiffs – should be appointed by the Amsterdam court within three months from the date of entry of the claim in the central registry of the Council of Judiciary in the Netherlands. Accordingly, we hope for a decision by the end of the year in order to be able to continue our initiated civil litigation against TikTok expediently.
Once the court has decided on the representative organization – or appoints co-plaintiffs - and the scope of the class(es) involved has been determined, it will also be possible for (groups of) parties to ‘opt-out’ and to file claims against TikTok separately from the proposed collective action. It will also be possible for consumers outside The Netherlands to request an opt-in in order to join the ongoing litigation in this period.
2. Is it possible for SOMI participants to join claims against TikTok initiated by other organisations?
Yes, at this point, this is always possible. There is actually no WAMCA stipulation blocking participation in several consumer groups at once. Under the WAMCA, a court decision on the collective action is binding for all participants in The Netherlands that did not choose to opt-out of the action. Therefore, the fact that a participant is registered to more than one foundation that initiated any collective action against TikTok does not have any effects on the members in that class, provided them to do opt-out specifically. Should this change at any later time in litigation, we will notify you expressly before it becomes relevant.