ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT

Data collected by TikTok brings up concern about privacy, security

Nov 4, 2022, 4:00 PM

Image of TikTok offices in the United States....

The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok office on August 27, 2020 in Culver City, California. A Utah tech leader voices concern over TikTok user data collected and used by the Chinese government. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 SALT LAKE CITY  —  While scrolling through TikTok and liking a video or two seems harmless, an IT executive said users should proceed with caution and especially if they are sharing data.

And the caution should start, said Earl Foote, CEO of Nexus IT, before you download and use TikTok or any social media app.

This suggestion comes as an FCC commissioner pushes for a ban on TikTok in the United States. Brenden Carr is concerned because TikTok’s parent company is owned by China, as is the data collected from the app and from those who use it. 

A company owned by the Chinese government, ByteDance, also owns TikTok.

“We are at cyber war with China, there is no doubt about that,” Foote told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic.

“The Chinese government is gathering as much information and intel about us as they possibly can,” Foote said, “so they can use that against us or to benefit their economy.”  

FBI concern over TikTok use of data reported in 2020

Foote’s concern about China is echoed by the FBI. In 2020, that agency revealed that most American adults had likely had their personal data stolen by the Chinese government. The FBI said this kind of information is used by the Chinese government to develop artificial intelligence tools.

Former President Donald Trump voiced concern about TikTok in August 2020. He threatened to ban the company in the U.S. unless it was purchased by an American company. He signed executive orders that were supposed to take effect in September 2020, but the effort was blocked by a federal judge.

User data and safety

According to TikTok’s website, the company collects information when an account is created. Then, they collect more data, in the form of technical and behavioral information, when a person uses the app.

The company also has access to any information a person shares through the messaging feature in TikTok. And it can collect the time zone, and approximate location when a user signs in. 

“We don’t know what the Chinese government might want to do with that knowledge and that data,” Foote said.  “On the business side, it’s more about stealing that IP (address).” 

Carefully reading privacy statements and knowing how to use parental settings, can help a person make an informed decision about using TikTok and other apps.

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