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Your Privacy and TikTok: Here’s What You Need to Know

When it comes to privacy on the internet, there are certain people and platforms that fall under intense scrutiny. For many years, it was Google and the Facebook (now Meta) platforms. Now, TikTok has emerged to become one of those heavily criticized apps when it comes to your personal data. Owned by ByteDance, TikTok is a Chinese-based app that lets you post short videos to share with friends and followers. It seems harmless enough, but there’s a lot of data collected from TikTok.

In their privacy policy, TikTok says that they collect information that includes how you process payments. That alone makes people nervous as it means the card (or PayPal account) that you use can be accessed easily by TikTok. Then, there’s some of the more standard information that TikTok collects including advertising based data such as location, search history and more. These may all sound alarming, but it’s no different than a lot of the information you’re sharing with Facebook, Google, Instagram and more.

In short, TikTok knows where you are pretty much at all times unless you’re turning off all of the data on your phone and not sharing location information. However, this information can be pulled from other devices that you own and have TikTok installed. This has caught the attention of lawmakers in the United States. “This is a security concern,” said Virginia senator Mark Warner. “It is, quite frankly, a business advantage to the Chinese overall.”

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TikTok is one of the many social media platforms that has been at the center of attention for biometric data. This evaluates your physical features from your fingerprints, facial recognition height, weight, and more. Shortly before an executive order was passed in June 2021, TikTok updated their privacy policy to be clear about what information they were obtaining from users. This included images, audio and video, as well as “the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes.” While the app’s owners have said that they don’t share the information with the Chinese government, many are still apprehensive. Among all social media sites, TikTok was ranked fourth in terms of data collected.

“We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data,” ByteDance said. “That’s why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses.” How effective they truly are at protecting your information and what it’s used for outside of the US is still questioned by many, especially with some that have worked for the company even going as far to say that they don’t know where that data goes.

With that in mind, always be very mindful of what you’re posting on TikTok. Though it’s unlikely for any small user to have their data collected for something sinister, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Senator Warren added when talking about TikTok that “My hope is the (Federal Trade Commission) will respond and we can put in place the kind of privacy protections that, right now, are just not being provided to Americans.”

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