TikTok is back on the spotlight for its data invasion practices. A report recently showed that even though the video-making company had reached a deal to store its data with cloud computing company, Oracle, its employees in China were still able to access data belonging to TikTok users in the US.
US Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr has ublished an open letter urging Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores citing a “pattern of surreptitious data practices”. This specifically refers to how the company shares user data with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It’s not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
Carr highlighted that the company had been keeping track of a number of data inputs including search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, biometric identifiers, draft messages and other metadata. The app can also access text, images, and videos that are stored on a device’s clipboard.
Prior to his exit in early 2021, Former US President Donald Trump had signed an executive order seeking to ban the popular app from the country.
“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance … might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump wrote in the order, which references national security concerns.
The Trump administration had concerns that TikTok could compromise national security by sharing information with the Chinese government. However, TikTok denied the allegations and threatened to sue Trump for the allegations.
After a back and forth with the US government, TikTok settled on a deal involving working with a US company to store data from the US in US servers. Recent developments however prove that the data is not only constrained to Oracle servers, but to the company’s parent company in China.
The app has exploded in popularity in the US and other countries, becoming the first Chinese social media to gain so much traction outside its home country. In early 2022, records showed that TikTok has more than one billion monthly users.