The social media platform wants to collect facial and voice prints of its US users in the future.
Even before that, the list of data that Tiktok stores and processes from users – primarily children and adolescents – was long. This includes the data of the SIM cards, IP addresses, and GPS coordinates as well as all app and file names of the devices. In addition, the operator automatically records all content and its metadata, messages, battery status, and keypress patterns and rhythms. Of course, it also saves all registration and profile information (name, age, language, other accounts in social media) as well as texts, images, and videos that are in the device’s cache.
Recently the list has gotten even longer. Accordingly, the platform operator also collects images and audio content from the postings and analyzes, for example, the “presence of facial and body features and attributes within an image, the type of audio and the text of the words spoken in the user content.” The data obtained use Tiktok for accessibility features, ad targeting, AR effects and to generate automatic captions. The app operator cites special video effects, moderation, demographic classifications, recommendations, and other “non-personal” processes as further reasons for the survey.
Biometric identifiers and biometric information
The new section also includes the acquisition of biometric data. “We can collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined in US law, such as facial and voiceprints, from your user content,” it says. Where it is required by law, the necessary permits will be obtained before recording, it said. Observers criticize the formulation as “vague”. You ask yourself which laws are meant, how the terms are defined and how the permits are to be obtained in the end. They also find that only five states have laws protecting biometric data. The company also contradicts its own text, because when asked, it announced that it would ask for consent at the beginning of such data collection practices. Similar questions remain open here.
The platform is taking the latest step
The platform is taking the latest step on thin ice, having recently had to pay 92 million US dollars to discontinue a dozen cases. Without exception, it concerned the illegal collection of data from underage US users – including biometric information. Tiktok paid and pledged to be more transparent about storing user data. Adjusting the data protection guideline may be the first step. Tiktok looks back on eventful years in which former US President Donald Trump wanted to ban the platform. It was a national security risk, he claimed because of the Chinese parent company Bytedance. It is feared that the government in Beijing will receive the data of US citizens via this. As a result, US corporations were supposed to take over the platform and a cascade of events did not result in a deal. The current president Joe Biden finally paused the forced sale. How Tiktok will continue is unclear. In Europe, a different adaptation of the data protection guideline is expected, because in this country many interventions are prohibited from the outset or require consent. Most recently, the EU took action against surreptitious advertising on the platform.