Has A Polular Children's App Been Sending Your Information To China? Reports Say Yes
Ever heard of TikTok? It's a popular app, especially for children because it allows them to create quick trendy videos and respond to online challenges. The app now faces a massive lawsuit for sharing user information to China.
The lawsuit filed in a Californian court last week claims TikTok "collected data on user from the US and sent it to servers in China. Information like personal identities, user data, and much more. The lawsuit says that that information can be used to profile and even track US citizens:
"TikTok is one of the most popular entertainment apps for mobile devices in the United States. It has acquired one of the largest installed user bases in the country on the strength of its popular 15-second videos of fun activities like dancing, lip-syncing, and stunts. Unknown to its users, however, is that TikTok also includes Chinese surveillance software. TikTok clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data that can be employed to identify, profile and track the location and activities of users in the United States now and in the future. TikTok also has surreptitiously taken user content, such as draft videos never intended for publication, without user knowledge or consent. In short, TikTok’s lighthearted fun comes at a heavy cost. Meanwhile, TikTok unjustly profits from its secret harvesting
of private and personally-identifiable user data by, among other things, using such data to derive vast targeted-advertising revenues and profits. Its conduct violates statutory, Constitutional, and common law privacy, data, and consumer protections."
The plaintiff is named as Misty Hong, a Californian-based university student. Ms Hong claims she downloaded the app this year but did not create an account. Months later she alleges the firm had created an account for her, and "surreptitiously" took draft videos she had created but never intended to publish. The data was sent to two servers in China, backed by Tencent and Alibaba. The lawsuit also argues TikTok unfairly profits from "secret harvesting" of private data by using that data to derive "vast targeted-advertising revenues and profits".
Alongside its rapid expansion, concerns have grown - chiefly in the US - over the potential to compromise users' privacy. US lawmakers have put pressure on the company to clear up allegations that it is beholden to the Chinese state.
TikTok has hit back against claims of government interference, arguing it "does not remove content" based on Chinese sensitivities. In October, the company said it had never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content "and would not do so if asked".
TikTok operates a similar but separate version of the app in China, known as Douyin. It says all US user data is stored in the United States, with a backup in Singapore.
IF the lawsuit is true, which isn't hard to believe, this is an extremely dangerous app. The US government has banned agents from having it on their cellphones. It probably isn't a good idea to have it on your or your loved one's phones.