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TikTok collects biometric data from users such as “facial and voice prints”

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Details of biometric data collection have been introduced in the newly added section, “Image and Audio Information”, found under the heading “Information We Collect Automatically” in the Privacy Policy. This is the part of TikTok’s Privacy Policy that lists the types of data that the application collects from users, which was already quite extensive.

The first part of the new section explains that TikTok can collect information about the images and audio that are in the users’ content, “how to identify the objects and scenes that appear, the existence and location within an image, face features and attributes and body, the nature of the audio and the text of the words spoken in your User Content.”

While this may sound daunting, other social networks do object recognition in images you upload to increase accessibility features (like describing what’s in an Instagram photo, for example) as well as for ad targeting purposes. Identifying where a person and the scene are can help with AR effects, while converting spoken words to text helps with features like TikTok’s automatic captions.

TikTok collects biometric data from users such as facial and

So this change to TikTok’s US privacy policy on Wednesday introduced a new section that says the social video application “can collect biometric identifiers and biometric information” from its users’ content. This includes things like “Face and voice prints,” explains the policy. Contacted for comment, TikTok was unable to confirm which product developments required the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it will seek consent should such data collection practices begin .

In the privacy policy it is also noted that this part of the data collection is to enable “video special effects, for content moderation, for demographic ranking, for content and advertisement recommendations, and for other non-personal identification operations, ”. The most worrying part of the new section refers to a plan to collect biometric data.

It is stated: We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined by US law, such as facial and voice prints, from your content. Where required by law, we will seek your required permissions prior to any collection. The statement itself is vague in that it does not specify whether you are considering federal law, state law, or both. It also doesn’t explain, like the other part, why TikTok needs this data. It does not define the terms “facial prints” or “voice prints”. Nor does it explain what the search for “necessary permissions” would be like from users, or whether state or federal laws guide this process of obtaining consent.

This is important because, as it is today, only a few US states have biometric privacy laws, including Illinois, Washington, California, Texas, and New York. If TikTok only requested consent “when required by law”, it could mean that users in other states would not have to be informed about the data collection. Contacted for comment, a TikTok spokesperson could not offer further details on the company’s plans for collecting biometric data or how it might be linked to current or future products.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we recently updated our Privacy Policy to provide more clarity about the information we may collect,” said the spokesperson. The company also featured an article on its approach to data security, the latest TikTok Transparency Report, and the recently launched privacy and security hub that aims to help people better understand their privacy options in the app.

TikTok collects biometric data from users such as facial and

Biometric disclosure is now coming, as TikTok is working to regain the trust of some US users. Under Trump’s administration, the federal government tried to ban TikTok altogether from operating in the US, considering it posed a threat to national security because it was owned by a Chinese company. TikTok fought the ban and was registered to state that it only stores TikTok user data in the US in its US and Singapore data centers.

He said he has never shared TikTok user data with the Chinese government or censored content, despite being owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. And he said he would never do that. Although the TikTok ban was initially lifted in the courts, the federal government has appealed the rulings. But when President Biden took office, his administration suspended the appeals process while it reviewed the steps taken by his predecessor. And while Biden has, as of today, signed an executive order to restrict US investment in Chinese surveillance companies, his management’s position at TikTok remains unclear.

It is important to note, however, that the new disclosure on biometric data collection follows a $92 million (about 76 Million Euros) settlement in a class action suit against TikTok, originally filed in May 2020, over application violation of ‘social-media’ in the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. The consolidated lawsuit included more than 20 separate lawsuits filed against TikTok regarding the collection and sharing of personal and biometric information by the platform, without the user’s consent. Specifically, this involved using face filter technology for special effects. In that context, TikTok’s legal team may have wanted to quickly protect themselves from future lawsuits by adding a clause that allows the application to collect personal biometric data.

Disclosure has only been added to the US Privacy Policy, as in other markets like the EU, which have stricter data protection and privacy laws. The new section was part of a broader update to TikTok’s Privacy Policy, which included other changes, both large and small variations from bug fixes from previous versions to reworked or even entirely new sections. Most of these tweaks and changes can be easily explained, however – as new sections that clearly reference TikTok’s e-commerce ambitions or tweaks aimed at addressing the transparency implications of Apple’s App Tracking targeted advertising.

Generally, TikTok still has a lot of data about its users, content and devices, even without biometrics. For example, TikTok policy has already stated that it automatically collects information about users’ devices, including location data based on SIM cards and IP and GPS addresses, the use of TikTok itself, and all content created or uploaded, data sent in application messages, uploaded content metadata, cookies, device application and file names, battery status, and even keystroke patterns and rhythms, among other things.

In addition to the “Information you choose to provide”, which appears when we register, TikTok collects registration information (username, age, language, etc.), profile information (name, photo, social-media accounts) , all of your user-generated content on the platform, your phone and social network contacts, payment information, plus the text, images and video found on the device’s clipboard.

The content of the Privacy Policy itself was not an immediate concern for some TikTok users. Some users reported seeing a pop-up message alerting them to the Privacy Policy update, but the page was not available when they tried to read it. Others complained of seeing the pop-up repeatedly. This problem does not appear to be universal. In testing, the Techcrunch team had no problems with the pop-up.

Source: Techcrunch

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