TikTok has taken the world by storm, and the US market has been particularly interested in the video-sharing platform. You’ve got to admit it is mad fun though, right?
Unfortunately, there have been reports that the app, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance Ltd., could be leaking personal data from users in the US to interested parties in China.
TikTok has enjoyed exponential growth recently, growing to be even bigger than Instagram in a relatively short time. Having 1.5 billion global users is no joke – that’s a significant percentage of the world’s population of 7.7 billion!
The platform allows users to upload and view short, usually funny video clips performed to voiceovers or different songs. If you’ve seen the Cardi B voiceovers, then you know exactly how captivating the app can be.
Back to the personal data concerns, New Scientist reports that authorities are currently conducting investigations towards the issue, and some charges against the app, and by extension the tech magnates that own it, have already been filed.
Given the tensions between the US and China, the fact that ByteDance is headquartered in Beijing does little to comfort the millions of Americans whose data could have been shared without their consent.
Last week, a California student filed a lawsuit against ByteDance for allegedly sharing their private data and other information that could be used to personally identify her to servers located in China.
According to the suit filing, the app shares among other information, websites a user visits even when not currently logged into TikTok.
The student, Misty Hong, claims that she has never had a TikTok account. She does have the app though, has created draft videos, but has never posted any of them.
Despite this though, she discovered that information concerning her unposted videos had been sent to Chinese servers. Ask Matthias Eberl, and the German journalist will tell you that Ms. Hong has a strong case.
The man has been investigating TikTok and how the app handles user data, and he claims to have found evidence suggesting that the video-sharing platform shares user information to advertisers such as Appsflyer. They also send some info to Facebook, probably to customize the adverts you view while logged into Zuckerberg’s platform.
According to Eberl, TikTok shares the data with impunity, so much so that what they send out there can be used to personally identify an individual user. If this is true, it contravenes existing privacy laws, and ByteDance could soon find themselves on the wrong side of the corridors of justice.
In addition to this lawsuit, Senator Chuck Schumer, who also happens to be the House’s minority leader, has been on TikTok’s case for months now.
Threat to National Security
He says that the platform poses a threat to national security, in that at the request of the Chinese government, ByteDance has no choice but to share data from the United States to China.
The government has taken his claims seriously, and investigations prompted by his allegations are currently underway.
While the EU and the US are extremely strict when it comes to privacy, China takes a more relaxed approach. Could this be the reason why they don’t see this as an intrusion of privacy?
All the same, Alex Zhu, one of the company’s top executives, denied sending data to China, saying that they store their info in Virginia, while backups are located in Singapore.