What’s New in Cyber-Privacy

The latest social media craze that is sweeping the globe, TikTok, very recently updated their terms and conditions that allows them to collect biometric and privacy data from its users legally.

TikTok is an app where users can create and share 15 second videos that range from dancing, singing, comedy, beauty tutorials and anything else that can be captured in a 15 second recording. Most popular among kids, teens, and young adults, TikTok has close to 700 million users worldwide with close to 68 million users in the United States alone!

What is Biometric Data?

The collection of biometric data is not new, just new to TikTok. Biometrics measure the individual’s face, fingerprints, voice, and behaviors/eye movement patterns that are used for identification of the user.

This technology has been used in the past by the government to track people who are under federal surveillance, by Apple for fingerprint and facial recognition to unlock IPhones, and Facebook for auto-tagging their users in pictures that are uploaded by friends.

Collecting biometrics is not necessarily a problem by itself. This kind of data is used primarily for tailoring their ads to fit the consumer and for increased identity protection. However, it gives those collecting the data more power to invade your privacy or sell your information to anyone with the money.

Since these platforms typically require agreement to their terms of service, the only way to use them is to consent to the collection of your data, encouraging many to ignore the data collection policies to use their social media.

The Problem with TikTok

In February 2021, TikTok settled a class action lawsuit that was filed against them as a combined case that included more than 10 different smaller lawsuits, all related to illegal collection of biometric/ private data from its users without their knowledge and proceeding to sell it to 3rd parties.

They settled for $92 million and then updated their terms and conditions to require their users to consent to the data collection. Users received a pop-up notification when they next opened the app that said they updated the terms with a button to agree to the new policies and a very small link to the actual document.

A huge portion of their users are under the age of 18, some as young as elementary school! Most children and teens using this app have no idea what they are agreeing to and how valuable having cyber-privacy can be in their adult life.

It is CRITICALLY important that parents monitor their children’s usage of the internet and to screen what their children are using, posting, and agreeing to. Cyber-security news often focuses on attacks that impact major businesses and consumer financial information; however, our cyber-security crisis is continuously becoming more severe and sophisticated; it affects all of us, not just big businesses, and adults.