Temu, the Online Retailer Under Fire for Privacy Violations

By Hugo Mercer February 14, 2024

Multiple class-action lawsuits accuse online discount retailer, Temu, of deceptive data collection practices, potentially endangering customer privacy and financial security.

In Chicago, popular online discount retailer, Temu, is under the microscope after being hit with a series of class-action lawsuits. These suits are largely centered around allegations that this digital shopping platform is employing deceptive data collection methods. Buyers are reportedly often oblivious to these practices including the company's activities with data collection and sharing.

The initial lawsuit was brought to an Illinois court in November by law firm Hagens Berman, acting on behalf of seven official complainants from states including Illinois, California, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Included in the plaintiff party are also an unspecified number of other claimants. The allegations pointedly center on Temu's purported violation of customer privacy rights through the collection and application of confidential data under "deceptive" and "unscrupulous" practices.

Legal representatives for the plaintiffs assert that experts have carried out an analysis of Temu's app, unveiling a concerning array of tools designed to facilitate invasive malware and spyware activities on devices. One of the attorneys involved, Jeannie Evans, stated, "We believe that is intentional," adding, "We talk about how Temu requests at least 24 permissions for all kinds of information that would not be needed for an online shopping app." These permissions apparently include access to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network information and intimate biometric data such as fingerprints.

In a separate, yet similar case lodged in New York State in September 2023 on behalf of complainant Eric Hu and others, the allegation states that Temu was unlawfully accumulating user data but failed to assure the secure maintenance of said information. Hu v. Temu et al points out the retailer's blatant neglect in adhering to security protocols allowing customer financial details to be exposed in an effort to slash budgetary expenditure on crucial security measures. Several customers took their grievances regarding leaked bank and credit card information following dealings with Temu to the Better Business Bureau.

Amongst those troubled is Michigan resident, Miguel Koenig, who is not involved in the lawsuits. Koenig, who used the Temu app for purchases and provided his bank details for convenience, was alarmed when almost $2,300 was vanished from his account through numerous unfamiliar charges. Expediently, he contested the charges with his bank and also aired his concerns regarding the influx of unsolicited credit offers polluting his email inbox.

Attorney Jeannie Evans states that Koenig's experience is not an isolated one. "We've talked to many members of the Temu platform, and we've heard similar reports," Evans explained. In their class-action lawsuit, the firm offers insight into how such incidents might occur, hypothesizing that when users download the app, it harvests confidential information from contact details to text messages, phone identifiers, and precise location data.

In receiving the charges, Temu, who began operations in September 2022 under PDD Holdings, offered a strong rebuttal: "We categorically deny the allegations and intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these meritless lawsuits," a spokesperson responded. Affirming their focus on privacy and denying the sale of customer data to third parties, the spokesperson criticized the complaints and referred to disclosures in their privacy policy, adding that a "permissions" section within the app and website clearly outlines the device features that Temu can access.