Data collection on TikTok: what worries users

The TikTok application is making a lot of noise because of its success with young people. However, recently, some governments are starting to turn their backs on the Chinese social network, one of the few most popular social platforms not coming from the United States. What is the problem? The security of subscribers' personal data.

Worrying use of personal data

To make the algorithm work and offer videos according to user tastes, TikTok asks to collect a lot of personal data: name, email address, phone number, contacts, geolocation, storage data, etc.

The Exodus Privacy association reported that TikTok requests 76 permissions on average from its subscribers. One of these permissions even allows the company to know which keys are typed by the user.

These figures are beginning to arouse mistrust in the four corners of the world. Some governments even accuse TikTok of being a Chinese spy tool. TikTok's use of this data is worrying because once permission is granted, you can't really know where this data is going.

As indicated this article from ExpressVPN, personal data is increasingly valuable for illegal resale, and leaks are becoming common. Moreover, it is the data that comes from social networks that are the least expensive to resell, and therefore the most interesting on the dark web: for example, a TikTok ID resells for 25 dollars, and a YouTube ID for 11,99 dollars.

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In November 2022, TikTok acknowledged that the app was used to transfer data to China. And in the same vein, in December 2022, the newspaper Forbes revealed that some of its employees had spied on journalists using geolocation. This was confirmed by TikTok, which fired those responsible, but mistrust had already set in.

TikTok banned for government employees

The application seems threatened with a ban in several countries. For now, it is being phased out of the work phones of government employees around the world. Since March, for example, the staff and elected officials of the European Parliament and the European Commission can no longer download TikTok on their work phone, according to this article from Le Monde. This is also the case in Canada for members of the government.

In the United States, a similar law was passed in early January for federal state employees. Additionally, a bill has been brought before the US Congress to ban the controversial app altogether. In France, a commission of inquiry in the Senate will investigate TikTok.

TikTok already sanctioned in France by the CNIL

Like Facebook and Instagram, TikTok collects a lot of data to provide users with targeted ads based on their interests. This data is shared with advertisers.

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TikTok has just received a sanction from the CNIL, for not having respected the regulations relating to cookies on its website… but not its application. The company will have to pay a fine of 5 million euros: a first for the group in France. The CNIL criticized the application for not having made the "Refuse" button sufficiently visible when requesting monitoring of user browsing, and for not having clearly explained to them what the cookies were intended for.

These harms are compounded by the negative influence experts say the app has on young people. They are encouraged to share their personal data and are not necessarily aware of the issues.

Recently, UFC-Que Choisir denounced fraudulent information on the application: the latter claimed that subscriber data was not shared with third parties, but it was false. TikTok was therefore forced to display instead that the data could be shared with third parties. It's a small but significant step forward in the quest to protect user data.

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