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TikTok is an extremely popular social media platform used among a vast number of the world’s younger generation. It is owned by the Chinese social media company called
ByteDance. ByteDance is a multi-billion dollar company with headquarters in Beijing. Under Chinese National Intelligence Laws the government has the ability to force companies operating in China to provide requested information, even if that data regards foreign citizens. Under similar Chinese laws this information does not need to be disclosed to users. In addition, larger companies in China are required by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to have cells within these companies to ensure they are following government guidelines. In essence, it is extremely difficult for companies operating within the country to not adhere to these guidelines, and ByteDance has shown compliance to the CCP’s rule.

There are ten main data points that TikTok collects once you open, download, and begin use of the app. They are:
1. IP addresses
2. Browsing history
3. Mobile phone carrier
4. Location data and GPS data
5. Information on the devices that were used to access TikTok including the devices IMEI number.
6. Video uploads
7. Length of time spent watching videos
8. Messages exchanged within the app
9. Shared videos within the app
10. Like videos within the app

In addition to this they can access other social media networks, contact lists, and payment information. TikTok’s privacy policy states that it will exchange your data information for ad targeting. 37% of the IP addresses linked to TikTok were traced back to China (“Penetrum”). Most are hosted by another large Chinese tech company known as Alibaba. Alibaba has unspecified ties with the CCP including alleged support of their surveillance and censorship techniques. In addition, TikTok had a recent security breach that left a massive amount of data accessible to cyber criminals.

This has caused concern within the United States. Various United States Senators have called for a national security analysis on the app in order to better understand the risk it poses to government personnel and sensitive information. The Department of Defense does not allow TikTok to be downloaded on government issued phones and in general, the Armed Forces members are encouraged to delete TikTok form their personal devices as well due to the high potential for invasive data collection and security risk that it poses. Military branches such as the United States Marine Corps and Army have even gone as far as blocking the app all together from their issued devices. It is important for all using TikTok or similar apps to remember the potential risk and information breach they face while using social media.

This article was written by Everett Stern from our Tactical Rabbit Reviews series.

 

 

Works Cited

  • Koch, Richie. “Why TikTok’s Ties to China Pose a Significant Privacy and Security Risk.” ProtonMail Blog, ProtonMail, 31 July 2020, protonmail.com/blog/tiktok-privacy/?utm_campaign=ww-en-2a-generic-coms_soc-social_organic.
  • “Penetrum Security Analysis of TikTok Versions 10.0.8 – 15.2.3.” Penetrum, 2020.
    Vigdor, Neil. “U.S. Military Branches Block Access to TikTok App Amid Pentagon Warning.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Jan. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/01/04/us/tiktok-pentagon-military-ban.html.

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