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Montreal lawsuit alleges the Temu app taking users’ biometric information: Q&A

Montreal lawsuit alleges the Temu app taking users’ biometric information: Q&A
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A Montreal lawyer wants to file a class action lawsuit against the Chinese-owned discount shopping app Temu, alleging that customers’ data was stolen.

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CTV News anchor Maya Johnson spoke with lawyer Andrea Grass about the lawsuit and what Quebecers should know about Temu.


Watch the full interview above.


Some questions and answers have been edited for grammar.


Maya Johnson


Let’s get into what this company is all about. It was founded in Boston in 2022, [and it’s] Chinese-owned. How much more do we know about who is behind it?


Andrea Grass


So we sued three defendants. There’s WhaleCo, which is in Boston, and is also in British Columbia. And then there’s the real one behind it all called PDD Holdings Inc., and that’s the Chinese company. WhaleCo is a subsidiary of PDD, which was in China, and now is in Ireland.


Maya Johnson


So we can already see it’s starting to get complex here. You’re based here in Quebec. Why are you seeking a class action lawsuit on behalf of Quebecers?


Andrea Grass


People around the world had their data stolen, including people in Quebec, so we filed the class action on behalf of Quebec residents, but anybody who downloaded the Temu app, or had electronic communications with Temu users, or had their data stored on devices used by Temu users. And so we filed this class action in Quebec on behalf of Quebec residents, to protect these consumers.


Maya Johnson


So there are two ways that you can purchase through Temu. You can use the app, as you mentioned, or you can just go directly to their website, and you’re arguing that this company is taking people’s private data. What kinds of things are we talking about here? What does the company have access to that is raising so many concerns?


Andrea Grass


The problem with Temu, and I think a lot of companies do take your data, certain data, maybe your email address might not be as offensive. But Temo is taking your biometric information. So what we’re talking about is facial characteristics and your fingerprints, and voiceprints, and your geospatial exact location. And none of this is even remotely relevant to trying to purchase anything online. If you’re trying to buy a doll, or plates, or clothing, they don’t need your facial characteristics for that. And so they’re taking this information, and we don’t know what they’re doing with it.


Maya Johnson


So that’s a concern that we don’t know what they’re using this information for, and they’re just able to get into your phone through your app and take that?


Andrea Grass


So it was bypassing your phone’s regular security settings and taking things that your phone would normally not allow it to take. I think we’re more familiar with these terms today, but malware and spyware on your phone.


Maya Johnson


That’s unbelievable. I think that’s probably pretty scary for people who are watching right now, and, oftentimes, when we go online, when we’re just navigating through different websites, we click on things like agree without thinking. I’m wondering if this could be a similar situation where people are consenting to things that they might not even be aware of.


Andrea Grass


So with the Temu app, they definitely did ask for permission for certain items. I never downloaded the Temu app myself to see exactly what it does ask for, but I can say that it’s not asking for your biometrics. It would be asking you for regular things, maybe your wireless network. I usually would have downloaded the Temu app, but I didn’t want to download the Temu app because of the allegations against what Temu was doing when you download the app. We can say that they are asking for certain permissions, but not all permissions, and they’re secretly collecting your information, and they’re likely misappropriating it. They’re asking you some and not others and our case is more about what they haven’t asked for. 

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