You probably know TikTok, a social network managed by the Chinese ByteDance which knows growing popularity, especially with teenagers. The social network users share videos of about 15 seconds with music. The application has more than 1.5 billion times (November figures) and nothing seems to be able to stop TikTok, the first Chinese social network to really break into the west.
A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges the app “includes Chinese surveillance software”. According to the complaint, the publisher ByteDance would collect user content like unpublished videos without the consent of users and rely on very ambiguous terms around privacy. According to our colleagues at Cnet, such practices raise concerns around a tool that can potentially identify, track and profile users around the world.
TikTok accused of secretly gathering user data and sending it to China
Videos in particular, often taken closely, would profile the faces of users for facial recognition purposes. The class action includes the case of Misty Hong, a plaintiff resident in Palo Alto, California. This student downloaded TikTok in April 2019 but never created an account herself. Yet several months later, she discovers that TikTok has created one with videos she says have never published.
However, as documents attached to the complaint show, TikTok would have recovered the videos and its data without her consent. Before sending them to servers located in China. In fact, according to the class action. It is enough for a user to create a video and press the Next button so that the video is immediately transferred to many servers without the knowledge of the user. The class action claims that TikTok also collects a lot of other data about its users. Including phone contacts, email addresses, IP, location and others.
The firm would also use various strategies to conceal this massive collection of data. The complaint documents include a list of servers in China that receives the data until February 2019. We will closely follow the US judges’ findings on this case.