The Current Status of TikTok
The popular app, TikTok has been facing scrutiny since last year due to security concerns over user’s data being sold to the Chinese government.
In the past couple days, President Trump has announced his plans to ban the app and Microsoft has made moves to purchase it. Currently, Trump has delayed the ban of TikTok in the US for 45 days to allow Microsoft the opportunity to acquire TikTok, however this could change.
TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. The concern with TikTok is that ByteDance and the Chinese government will use TikTok to further its goal of swaying public opinion and censoring data. ByteDance said in a recent statement that they will “remain committed to our vision to become a globalized company.”
The Chinese government already uses tactics such as propaganda and censoring information on their own citizens. In fact, sites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and more are blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.”
Multiple class action law suits have been filed by users claiming the app “includes Chinese surveillance software” and “facial recognition software” without informing users. Employees of multiple companies have been instructed to remove the apps from their phones since these concerns arose, and has already been banned in India, along with 60 other Chinese owned apps.
ProtonMail, I highly trusted team of cyber experts who share the “vision of protecting civil liberties online,” published a report on TikTok. In their report they detailed that although the type of data TikTok collects does not differ much from information other social media sites gathers from users, but it’s “the amount of data it collects that is concerning.”
“The amount of data TikTok collects is concerning.”
What Information Does TikTok gather?
- Your Current Location
- IP Addresses (Internet Address of your device)
- Browsing History
- Phone & Internet Provider Information
- Personal Info (Phone #, Email, Date of Birth)
- Requests permission to access other social media accounts
Apart from a user’s individual data, TikTok has the ability to view collective data, such as what millions of Americans are viewing and searching. “It’s become an important venue for political speech and activism, and some researchers worry the Chinese government could use it to sway public opinion or censor topics.”
It’s unclear what decision will be made now that Microsoft is considering buying TikTok. However, if it is banned, there are other companies like Facebook that plan to release a similar app called, Reels, later this month. Just like with any app or website you sign up for, it’s important to proceed with caution, and understand what these platforms do with your data.