Employees’ Access to User Data on TikTok
According to a Wall Street Journal report, TikTok employees could access certain details about users who viewed posts in specific categories, including those with LGBTQ subjects. Employees allegedly had access to a list or dashboard that allowed them to gather information on users engaging with specific types of content.
TikTok’s Response to Privacy Concerns
TikTok reportedly discontinued the dashboard last year, as a representative informed the Journal. In a statement to Insider, a TikTok spokesperson said, “Safeguarding the privacy and security of people who use TikTok is one of our top priorities.” They added that TikTok does not identify individuals or infer sensitive information based on their viewing habits.
Ongoing Privacy Concerns in the Tech Industry
The data-gathering practices of tech and social media companies have consistently raised privacy concerns. Issues range from the potential access of conversation histories by generative AI chatbot companies to Meta’s handling of user information, which led to a $725 million settlement related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
US Pressure on TikTok and ByteDance
With around 150 million users in the US, TikTok has faced pressure from the Biden administration to separate its US arm from its Chinese owner, ByteDance. In Montana, lawmakers passed a measure banning TikTok, although it is expected to face legal challenges. Additionally, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress in March due to increased pressure over the company’s China-based ownership.