TikTok secretly transferred user data to China without obtaining consent, according to a lawsuit filed by a college student in the Northern District of California.
Misty Hong claimed the viral video service culled off her personal videos and information, then funneled it to servers in China.
“Allegations that TikTok has been accumulating data about U.S. consumers - including personally identifiable information - and extracting it back to servers in China are unsurprising,” said Ray Walsh, a digital privacy advocate at ProPrivacy. "Despite TikTok's previous claims that it was not extracting data back to China - a healthy amount of skepticism existed among privacy advocates surrounding this Chinese company's data practices.”
Calling Big Data a valuable currency that the service accumulates, Price maintained that “it always seemed highly probable that the international branch of TikTok would be sending masses of data back to its masters in China.”
He noted that the services like TikTok aren’t designed “just to profit from advertising revenue within the platform, but also to gain access to valuable data and insights about consumers.” As with all apps developed overseas, “consumers need to be aware of the risks that their data may be extracted and used in accordance with foreign privacy policies and regulations,” Price said. “This means that any data accumulated from U.S. citizens on those platforms could potentially be used to identify, track and profile them” not only now but well into the future.
“The potential that the app is surreptitiously collecting user content via TikTok - even when users do not publish those videos to the platform - is extremely concerning and rings very serious alarm bells,” said Price. “Users ought not to have to worry about draft videos being hoovered up by the company because if these allegations turn out to be true TikTok is potentially accumulating all kinds of insights that consumers believe they are ultimately deciding not to share.”