TikTok Deemed Safe from Censorship and Privacy Accusations

Monday, March 29th, 2021 | , ,

China-based social media platform, TikTok, has been cleared of privacy concerns by security analysts from CitizenLab. Collecting real data on the platform’s source code, researchers have declared that TikTok meets reasonable standards of security and privacy.

According to researchers, the platform is a customized version of more intrusive versions of the application used by TikTok’s parent company, China-based ByteDance, across East and Southeast Asia, minus the limitations in access or privacy. CitizenLab explained that the controls ByteDance has put in place for the version of TikTok available in the U.S. are sufficient, “nor [contain] strong deviations of privacy, security and censorship practices when compared to TikTok’s competitors, like Facebook,” the report said.

There remain concerns that the source-code capabilities to censor speech on the various ByteDance apps could be enabled in the US version of TikTok in the future.

Last summer, former President Trump threatened to ban TikTok from the U.S., where it has more than 100 million users, and even signed an executive order to block it from app stores due to what he called “national-security concerns.” Then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added at the time that TikTok allowed “China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data.” Plans to block TikTok were abandoned at the last minute, but questions have lingered.

According to the new findings reported by CitizenLab, those accusations are unfounded.

“TikTok and Douyin do not appear to exhibit overtly malicious behavior similar to those exhibited by malware,” the report said. “We did not observe either app collecting contact lists, recording and sending photos, audio, videos or geolocation coordinates without user permission.”

While the research team admits their testing was limited to only the “most popular” posts on TikTok, they were able to conclude the “platform does not enforce obvious post censorship, and if post censorship was enforced at all it would subtly only apply to unpopular posts,” the report added.

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