TikTok Updates Privacy Policy to Give Itself Permission to Collect Biometric Data from U.S. Users

The popular social video-sharing app TikTok has integrated new changes into its U.S. privacy policy. Under the new policy, the app may collect biometric data 💾 and identifiers from user content.

Biometric data includes aspects such as information about faces 😲 and voiceprints. Some critics have found this idea concerning. This is especially true because the platform, which is several years old, has gained significant popularity among minors. Here’s the full scoop.

TikTok’s New Privacy Policy

The new addition to the privacy policy shows that TikTok collects data about the media found in user content. This includes “identifying the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of a face and body features, and attributes, the nature of the 🎤 audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content.”

While all of the above may seem concerning, other social networks also identify images you upload to enable accessibility attributes and improve ad selection. These details may help TikTok’s automated features. For example, identifying a user and their location assists AI 🤖 effects that change spoken words to text.

The app also uses the data to automatically add captions that make videos accessible to its deaf 👂 and hearing-challenged audiences. The new policy section explicitly states that gathering that data is meant to allow “special video effects for content moderation, for demographic classification, for content and ad recommendations, and other non-personally-identifying operations.”

The new section states that the app collects biometric data from user content, such as voiceprints 🎧 and faceprints. It will request permission from the user before any data collection takes place, as required by law.

The U.S. Users React

TikTok’s policy changes arrived at a time when the app is making attempts to reacquire the trust of its U.S. users. Under the Trump administration, the federal government tried to ban 🚫 the app in the U.S., labeling TikTok a threat to national security because it is owned by a Chinese company. In its defense, TikTok stated that it only stores data from its U.S. users in data centers in the U.S. and Singapore.

The platform said it has never shared its user data with China or censored content. TikTok explained that even if it’s owned by Chinese-based ByteDance, it would never carry out such activities because of a request by the Chinese government 🕵️.

Though the courts threw out the platform ban, the federal government appealed the rulings. However, the appeal didn’t continue after Biden took office.

The terms and conditions of the privacy policy did not concern many TikTok users. The issue came from its problematic delivery. Some users reported viewing a pop-up message 💬 notifying them of the policy changes, but the page wasn’t accessible to those trying to read it. Other users complained of seeing the message repeatedly.

TikTok Has Already Been Sued for Collecting Biometric Data

The popular video-sharing app has faced previous lawsuits regarding the alleged theft of children’s data 👶, which it sent to server farms in China. ByteDance recently chose to settle 21 lawsuits in what lawyers describe as “the largest privacy payout in history.”

The platform faced accusations of breaching 💔 privacy laws in Illinois in a court dispute that lasted over a year. The attorneys representing TikTok users alleged that the app acquired a large amount of private information that could track and identify users without consent.

The lawsuit said the app mines data ⛏️ from draft videos that users never published. That’s cause for concern since many TikTok users are children. The platform disagreed with the accusations but decided that settling the case would be in its best interest.

This instance of a data theft lawsuit has occurred before with TikTok. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined the platform over $5.7 million 💵 for accusations regarding the same grievance.

What’s Next?

Overall, TikTok holds a lot of user information and keeps records of their generated content and devices. And that was before it started publicly collecting biometric data.

The platform has faced many anti-privacy allegations in the past, but that hasn’t stopped its growth or 📈 popularity. Despite the privacy concerns, the app continues to draw in more users worldwide.

It is unclear what effects the changes to TikTok’s privacy policy will have. If the new terms violate U.S. laws, then you might be reading about more TikTok lawsuits in the coming months.