How dangerous is TikTok?
By momoka
2022-11-21

TikTok is a Chinese app owned by technology company ByteDance; TikTok allows users to create and share short videos. The app is reminiscent of Vine, a similar video-sharing platform that reached a high a few years ago. Tiktok is extremely popular. It is also the first Chinese social media app to do this successfully outside of China. However, according to a recent survey, the security of the app leaves much to be desired.

Several agencies and news organizations are now sounding the alarm and reporting on many of the issues that have surfaced. ByteDance insists that it wants to stay away from its Chinese background in order to serve its global audience and says it will never share data with the Chinese government. But now that new security laws have been introduced in Hong Kong, this claim seems impossible.

TikTok's user base consists primarily of children and adolescents, who are considered by many to be a vulnerable group. This is the main reason why various authorities have expressed concern. But it is not only young people who are put at risk by TikTok. Since December 2019, U.S. military personnel are no longer allowed to use TikTok because the app has been deemed a "cyber threat." EU privacy regulators have also decided to investigate TikTok's privacy policy, and even Reddit's CEO has harshly condemned TikTok's practices.

VPNOverview took a closer look at TikTok and included the latest research in its analysis. The findings are disturbing. The privacy and security risks associated with TikTok are serious. So what can be done to minimize these risks as much as possible?

TikTok and the Dangers of Chinese Government Influence

TikTok is owned by Chinese developer ByteDance. This has led many to wonder about the role the Chinese government plays behind the scenes. Just as Huawei has been under intense scrutiny over the past few years, TikTok is not trusted because of its ties to China. In China's political system, the government has more influence over companies than in Western countries. This means that the Chinese government can (and probably will) collect data from users.

The Chinese government is not the only one collecting data. Western governments are also trying to gain insight into and influence social media platforms. For example, the U.S. government regularly seeks to acquire data through technology companies. For example, the U.S. government regularly tries to acquire data through technology companies. The U.S. government is a constitutional state. However, because the U.S. is a constitutional state, there are several safeguards and laws in place that somewhat limit the government's influence. While Western countries have a myriad of independent privacy watchdogs, China has none.

The hacker group Anonymous claims that TikTok was developed primarily as spyware for the Chinese government. See tweet below.

TikTokについての匿名ツイート

In addition, Anonymous released a video listing the many dangers of TikTok. They cite sources that have done extensive research on TikTok. TikTok is essentially a "social networking site. TikTok is essentially malware that targets children. Do not use TikTok. Do not allow friends or family to use it. Remove TikTok now [...] If you know someone who is using TikTok, explain to them that it is malware operated by the Chinese government, which is engaged in large-scale espionage."

These claims are consistent with recent developments surrounding TikTok. For example, Apple researchers have announced that TikTok is intentionally spying on its users.

Claims continue to pile up indicating that TikTok is a highly invasive application that poses considerable privacy risks. Data collection on TikTok appears to be far more advanced than on other social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. This is surprising, because the data collection on TikTok is much more advanced than on other social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. TikTok appears to be collecting data on a much larger scale than other social media platforms, because these two companies are already facing backlash for the way they address user privacy. This, coupled with TikTok's origins, makes it very plausible that the Chinese government has insight into all of this collected data.

Browser Trackers and the Dangers of Data Collection

An investigation by a German data protection website revealed that TikTok installs browser trackers on devices. These track all activity on the Internet. According to ByteDance, these trackers were deployed to recognize and prevent "malicious browser activity. However, it is not clear whether TikTok also be able to use fingerprinting technology that assigns unique IDs to users. This allows TikTok to link data to user profiles in a very targeted way.

Unfortunately, this occurs with a gross disregard for privacy. Perhaps intentionally so. German researchers have shown, for example, that when TikTok uses Google Analytics, IP addresses are not anonymized. This means that online behavior is directly linked to IP addresses, which provide information about the user's location and indirectly about the user's identity.

Moreover, TikTok's reasoning for this type of data collection only raises further questions. What does the company mean by "malicious browser behavior"? What happens to the data collected through the tracker? Why does the company collect your IP address? What gives TikTok the right to search your browser in the first place?

The Dangers of Spyware Disguised as Social Apps

The tracking activity described above is suspicious, to say the least. Members of the online technology community on Reddit and other platforms believe that TikTok is intentionally collecting user data. The app is alleged to be essentially a way to steal data under the guise of social media.

Reddit users have used reverse engineering to further their understanding of TikTok. Anonymous cited the results in the aforementioned video. Reddit users discovered that TikTok collects all kinds of information.

  • Smartphone hardware (CPU type, hardware ID, screen size, dpi, memory usage, storage space, etc.);
  • Other apps installed on the device.
  • Network information (IP, local IP, router MAC address, device MAC address, Wi-Fi network name);
  • Whether the device is rooted/jailbroken;
  • Location data (only occurs in some versions of TikTok) due to an option that is automatically turned on when you add a location tag to a post.

Additionally, the app creates a local proxy server on the device. This is officially used for "media transcoding". However, this is done without authentication and can be abused. Additionally, tracking of that information can be configured remotely. Also, the app did not initiate use of the HTTPS protocol until recently. This meant that user data was not secure in the first place.

The fact that several sources have independently stated that TikTok is nothing more than spyware labeled as "social media" makes it difficult to explicitly consider using the app at this time. explicitly discouraging the use of this app at this time. This is a reason to explicitly discourage the use of this app at this time. An official investigation into TikTok is underway, but this may take some time. In this case, we are sorry, but we prefer to be safe.

TikTok's privacy policy facilitates large-scale data exchange with governments and other companies

In its privacy statement, TikTok states Here is the information TikTok collects about its users. Navigating to the Privacy Policy from the app's settings will show only a summary of the complete information. Clicking on each section will take you to a more complete description within the same document.

Upon closer examination of TikTok's privacy policy, one can conclude that the company behind the app is authorized to turn over all user data to both commercial entities and the government. "We will share your information with law enforcement, public authorities, or other organizations if we are legally required to do so or if such use is reasonably necessary to comply with a legal obligation, process, or request."

Here the differences between the Chinese system and the political systems of other countries become apparent. In China, the phrase "if legally required to do so" simply means "as soon as the government requires it." Furthermore, you can get your hands on TikTok user data simply by setting up a business entity using a mock structure. After all, the privacy policy allows the company to share all user data with the entities TikTok does business with.

The following excerpt from TikTok's privacy policy shows how easily TikTok can share your data with third parties

TikTok プライバシー ポリシー 法執行機関の要求

TikTok プライバシー ポリシー 売却または合併

Even phrases such as "We share your information based on legitimate business interests (...)" are understandably met with too many opportunities for privacy violations, critics point out. This, among other concerns about apps, has caused some countries to consider banning them.

We asked investigative journalist and writer Maria Genova about her vision for TikTok. According to Genova, TikTok is the perfect tool for spying on a large scale. Genova says, "TikTok is a great tool for large-scale espionage. Genova says, "TikTok is a great tool for mass espionage. It's incredible how much information such an app can extract from your phone. (...) If you have a large number of downloads [in a country], you can observe the entire population and draw conclusions from that."

Genova is well aware of the latest news surrounding such apps and writes about them in her new book. "I'm writing [a book] focused on malicious apps, but I don't want to know how often apps change their terms of service without anyone noticing. Google removes about a million malicious apps every year, all of which are officially downloadable apps from the Google Play Store. Apps can access your entire phone, including all your contacts, without you even knowing it," Genova said.

TikTok is growing at an alarming rate

Despite the many claims about the dangers of TikTok, it is growing rapidly. In the U.S. alone, the number of users will reach 45.4 million by the end of 2020. In the U.S. alone, the number of users is expected to reach 45.4 million by the end of 2020. In the U.S. alone, the number of users is expected to reach 45.4 million by the end of 2020. Globally, it is estimated that there will be 800 million TikTok users by the end of this year. The number of users is expected to continue growing in the coming years.

The following Statista projections show the projected growth of TikTok in the U.S. through 2024.

米国でのアクティブな TikTok ユーザー数の予測される成長を示すグラフ

Source: Statista

In addition, Google users have become increasingly interested in TikTok since its launch, as evidenced by their search behavior. The image below shows the growing global interest in TikTok based on the number of searches made on Google, as indicated by Google Trends. As you can see, there were some spikes in 2019, but then searches steadily increased.

Google トレンドの TikTok 検索ボリューム

Search interest peaked in September 2019, when explained by the fact that investigations showed that extensive censorship had taken place on TikTok in favor of the Chinese government. The platform harshly condemned images of protests in Hong Kong that occurred at the time, presumably in an attempt to silence the voices of protesters. This was later confirmed by The Guardian.

Currently, established platforms such as Facebook and Instagram still have more search volume than TikTok. However, their search volumes are no longer increasing. They may even be declining. TikTok, on the other hand, is growing rapidly. If TikTok does indeed pose a significant privacy risk (and it certainly seems to), widespread use of the app is a major concern.

It is important to note that TikTok is currently banned in Russia. However, it is possible to access TikTok using clever workarounds.

Privacy on TikTok

How do users experience TikTok and what information do they consciously share with the app? TikTok users must create an account to unlock all features of the app. The default option is to register using their phone number, but they can also use their email address. The latter is a slightly safer option with regard to privacy protection, as long as you use an email address that does not reveal your identity.

If TikTok asks you if you want personalized ads, your only option is to click the big button that says "I agree." If you do not want personalized ads, you will need to go to settings and change it. In fact, many users do not take the time to do this or do not even know it is an option. Furthermore, this particular setting is disabled by default, so you will want to turn it on and it will appear as if you have already turned it off . In this way, many people unknowingly allow their data to be used for personalized advertising.

Many privacy settings cannot be changed

Once you create an account, you can view your limited privacy settings. There are only two settings that can be turned on or off. First, there is the above setting regarding ad settings. Second, TikTok has settings that allow users to control their interactions with other users.

By downloading, installing, and using TikTok, you automatically agree to TikTok's Privacy Policy. This policy states that TikTok will collects any type of information about you without giving you an opportunity to opt out This policy states that TikTok is permitted to collect all types of information about its users without giving them the opportunity to opt out. This information includes

  • Data provided by the user to create an account.
  • Information about your use of the application. This includes videos you watch and other users you interact with.
  • Data from Facebook, Google, or Twitter (if you created an account on one of these platforms).

It remains unclear where the data collected is stored, what it is used for, and who may or may not have access to that information. When talking about the purpose for which the information is collected, the privacy policy simply includes statements such as "improving the user experience" and other less informative wording.

Access to Camera and Microphone

For TikTok to work properly, you need access to the camera and microphone. Since we are talking about a video application, this may sound logical. However, there is no specification that explains exactly how these permissions are used. Thus, even if you are not filming a TikTok video, TikTok could theoretically use the microphone to record your conversation and voice.

Other technology companies have used this technique, often to much backlash. For example, Apple's Siri continued to record conversations even when it shouldn't have. Thus, this voice assistant for iPhone and iPad heard more than it was intended to. It interpreted words like "serious" and "series" as "Siri" and saw them as reasons to wake up and start recording. While seemingly harmless mistakes, they can lead to the spread and leakage of highly sensitive conversations and data.

Whether we are talking about voice recordings, location data, or identity data, the more ambiguity contained in privacy statements, the greater the likelihood that the firm will have to twist those statements. This greatly increases the potential for privacy violations.

Dangers to the TikTok Community

Besides the privacy issues surrounding TikTok, there are other threats to the platform. TikTok has hundreds of millions of users, not all of whom have good intentions. This is not a good sign since many of those active on the app are children. Some of the dangers these young users may encounter are online bullying and harassment.

Justine Pardoen of Bureau Jeugd en Media, a Dutch organization that focuses on Internet safety for children, says Grooming is another risk on TikTok. Online grooming occurs when an adult comes into contact with a child through digital means with the intent of meeting the child. Often it involves sexual abuse or the creation of child pornography (wanting to get involved).

Finally, there are countless scammers and scam attempts on TikTok. This comes with risks, including identity theft. Parents concerned about their children's online safety can always consult a guide with tips on how to protect their children on the Internet.

What We Think About TikTok Dangers

We at VPNOverview would like to know the future conclusions of the ongoing investigation and research on TikTok. Our editors regularly download and use popular applications to test their security and privacy options. For example, we also tested dating apps Grindr and Tinder. current findings and concerns surrounding TikTok are reason enough to remove the app from your device. Whether they are sensitive to privacy concerns remains to be seen.