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Arkansas Sues Temu, Accusing Online Retailer of Illegally Accessing User Info

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Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Tuesday announced a lawsuit against the parent companies of online retailer Temu, alleging that the shopping app illegally collects user information and sells the data to third parties.

The complaint against PDD Holdings Inc. and Whaleco Inc., filed in Cleburne County Circuit Court, says the app is “purposefully designed to gain unrestricted access to a user’s phone operating system,” including a user’s camera, specific location, contacts, text messages, documents and other applications. “Temu is designed to make this expansive access undetected, even by sophisticated users,” the suit says. “Once installed, Temu can recompile itself and change properties, including overriding the data privacy settings users believe they have in place.”

The lawsuit cites news reports in which cybersecurity researchers described the app as malware. It also notes that Google and Apple suspended Temu’s sister app Pinduoduo from their respective app stores in 2023 over malware and data collection concerns.

“Temu is not an online marketplace like Amazon or Walmart. It is a data-theft business that sells goods online as a means to an end,” Griffin said in a statement.

PDD Holdings moved it headquarters from Shanghai, China, to Dublin, Ireland, last year. The suit alleges that the company continues to have significant operations in China, which raises national security risks due to Chinese laws that mandate cooperation with the country’s intelligence apparatus.

The suit alleges violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). It seeks an order enjoining Temu’s alleged violations, imposing civil penalties and providing monetary and equitable relief.

Temu was the most downloaded app in the U.S. in 2023 at 337 million downloads.

In April, U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida called on the Biden administration to investigate Temu after a Congressional report found that the company’s supply chains had an extremely high risk of forced labor.

Montana has banned the app from government devices over its invasive data practices.

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