TikTok: What data does it collect about its users and how do other apps stack up? | Scientific and technical news


The Chinese-owned TikTok app has been accused of collecting data from its users and has even been described as a potential national security risk by White House officials.

President Trump said on Friday he intended to ban video sharing platform of the United States because of these concerns, although over the weekend he appeared to endorse a potential Microsoft move to acquire the business in the United States.

Similar national security concerns have been raised regarding other Chinese companies, in particular Huawei, prompting critics to dismiss them as protectionism on America’s part.

TikTok is owned by Chinese

Social media platforms and rival politicians have warned of data risks regarding TikTok, but it’s unclear what real risks they are citing – aside from the company’s origins in China.

Earlier this year, a thread on Reddit the original research merger included a description of TikTok as “a thinly veiled data collection service as a social network.”

But this was refuted by a security researcher called Baptiste Robert, who tweets under the pseudonym @ fs0c131y, who found that the data collected by TikTok is relatively standard for social media applications.


Here are five things about its users that TikTok actually collects, and how they stack up against other social media apps:

TikTok has been threatened by Donald Trump

1. Everything you write, even if you don’t send it

TikTok scans and analyzes all “information you provide in connection with composing, sending or receiving messages”, in accordance with its privacy policy.

This includes the content of the message you compose, even if you delete it.

It could be seen as a major invasion of privacy, but if it does, it’s a pretty pervasive breach. Facebook has been using private message content to create user profiles for advertisers for years.

The logo of the TikTok app is visible on a screen in this photo illustration taken on February 21, 2019
Unusually, TikTok collects keystroke dynamics

2. Everything you touch on the screen

Typing dynamics are a type of biometric that can identify people based on how they type on a keyboard or slide across a screen.

The company acknowledges the capture of users’ “typing patterns or rhythms” in its privacy policy, although it does not say why.

However, these models could be extremely powerful. Researchers have found that typing patterns can tell a lot about users, from their gender to their clinical depression.

TikTok appears to be the only company that recognizes capturing keystroke dynamics.

TikTok records the devices people use to access the platform

3. Everything about the device you use to access TikTok

Our mobile and tablet devices can communicate a lot of information when using TikTok, including your IP address, any unique device ID, as well as the following:

  • your device model
  • your mobile operator
  • time zone setting
  • screen resolution
  • operating system
  • names and types of applications and files.

Sounds like a lot, but it’s actually standard and most of them are needed for the app to display and work properly.

Donald Trump texting
Mr Trump also appeared to approve of a possible decision by Microsoft to acquire TikTok in the United States.

4. Your contacts

TikTok collects contacts from the user directory, as well as contacts from social networks if a user’s connection is linked to one of these services.

While this only happens “with your permission,” permission should only be given by the primary account holder, who may reveal their connection to someone else who has not given permission.

It’s also not unique to TikTok, and almost any social media platform will allow you to import contacts and see if there are any matches with users on the platform itself.

5. What interests you

It’s not unique to TikTok at all. It is the goal of social media platforms to continue to serve their users the type of content that will allow them to scroll and use the platform.

But that’s where the company’s ties to China have raised concerns.

The TikTok home page – this is the page for you – is a feed specially curated for each user by TikTok’s algorithms, and there is no obvious mechanism for users to use the platform. from a neutral point of view.

This means that any manipulation of this content – potentially for the purposes of political censorship – could end up going completely unnoticed by the user, who has no method to remedy it.


TikTok line shows tension between US tech policy and China’s rise

Charges of such censorship have also been leveled against social media companies in the West, including by President Trump.

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump signed an executive order aimed at limiting the platforms’ protections based on accusations that they manipulated content against conservative views.

Studies have found no evidence that social media companies target users based on their political positions rather than against the companies’ own content policies.

Likewise, according to Baptiste Robert, there is no evidence that TikTok has hijacked data in a way that other social media apps would not.

He concluded his analysis by stating, “TikTok does not behave suspiciously and does not infiltrate unusual data.

“Getting data on user device is quite common in the mobile world and we would get similar results with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and others. “


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