TikTok slammed for massive privacy breaches and suppressing LGBTQ users

  • Social networking video-sharing service TikTok has been criticised for breaching personal data of teenagers and suppressing videos by disabled and LGBTQ creators.

    While most of us think of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram when we talk about social media, the past few years have seen video-sharing social networking service TikTok rapidly gain momentum with a younger audience. The TikTok app was launched in 2017 and allows users to post and share micro-videos online, with a focus on lip-syncing, short comedy skits, and quick talent showcase videos.

    In today's age of data privacy awareness, social media companies are now being forced to give users more transparency over how their data is collected and used. Facebook was recently fined $5bn by the US Federal Trade Commission in response to high-profile data protection violations such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and GDPR has given internet users in Europe new rights to control their data.

    Data protection journalist Matthias Eberl recently published a deep investigation into the TikTok app and discovered massive violations of user privacy and data protection laws. He found that the app is collecting your device information, data on how you use the app, lists of all your watched videos, and all search terms you enter.

    This data is sent to Appsflyer and Facebook, and Matthias explains that both transfers are breaches of GDPR. The app fails to inform users of the extent to which their personal data is being collected and used, and uses sophisticated digital fingerprinting techniques to uniquely identify users even though the app itself is pitched as anonymous, data that could be used by a third party to link your activity to your online accounts elsewhere.

    The app has also been heavily criticised following the revelation that its creators hired staff to manually view TikTok videos and "decide if the creator looked like the type of person others might bully." The moderators would then add a flag on the account that would suppress the social reach of its videos, restricting them to within their home country or preventing the videos from showing in users' feeds. The policy has reportedly resulted in a deliberate bias against disabled, LGBT, and overweight content creators.

    Source: Twitter, Twitter, Slate

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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