Are Social Media Apps Like TikTok Spying on us?

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Executive Summary

During the Covid-19 pandemic, TikTok quickly became one of the most popular social media platforms around the world as a video-sharing app that allows users to create and share short clips. The app has gained a massive user base, especially among the younger generation. However, with its rapid growth, there have been concerns regarding the app's privacy and security. In this blog, we will discuss the recent cyber security issues of the TikTok application.

The app is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, which has raised concerns about the app's privacy and security. In 2022, Microsoft discovered a severe vulnerability (CVE-2022-28799) in the TikTok android application that could allow attackers to compromise users accounts with a single click [1].

Why is this topic important?

The main issue with the TikTok is the data it collects from its users. The app collects a vast amount of personal information, including location, device information, contacts, and browsing history. This data can be used to build a detailed profile of a user, which can be sold to advertisers or used for other malicious purposes. Many social media applications such as Facebook and Instagram also gather this type of data and TikTok suggests the data collection is in line with industry practices.

Another big concern with TikTok is its relationship with the Chinese government. Many people believe that the Chinese government has access to the app's data, and that it could be used for surveillance and other purposes. FBI director Christopher Wray has voiced issues with the app and has referred to China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law that requires all companies to cooperate with the government with regards to data including users’ information [2]. This has led to concerns about what the data collected could be used for.

Finally, there are fears that TikTok could be used as a brainwashing tool by changing the algorithm used to suggest videos depending on the location. An example of this is censoring content that is critical of the Chinese government or promoting certain politics to users. TikTok has denied these allegations, but the concerns remain.

According to TikTok, they have taken steps to address these concerns. The company has increased their hiring of security and privacy experts to review its app and identify any vulnerabilities. The app has also introduced new features to enhance its security, such as two-factor authentication and improved encryption.

How to protect yourself?

Social media application users should ensure they understand how using them affects their data and privacy. One way of doing this is to research the permissions an app has either on the internet or on the privacy settings of a phone. In addition, users should try to read the privacy policy of applications as this is something that is often overlooked. The privacy policy will explain what data is collected and what the purpose of the data collection is.

In conclusion, TikTok's rapid growth has led to concerns about the app's privacy and security. The app, as do many other social media apps, collects a vast amount of personal information. TikTok continues to face scrutiny from regulators around the world. Users of the app should be aware of these issues and take steps to protect privacy and security online.




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