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'Is TikTok a Chinese Cambridge Analytica Data Bomb Waiting to Explode?'

CBS News calls TikTok "the first major contender since Snapchat to possibly disrupt a market dominated by social media behemoth Facebook.

"The mere three-year-old startup even comes with a history of data-privacy controversies."
Created by China start-up ByteDance in 2016, TikTok has already been downloaded over 1 billion times globally, surpassing both Facebook and Instagram in app installs last year, according to analytics site Sensor Tower.... It's also more than just a plucky tech start-up. ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is the single largest start-up in the world, surpassing Uber in valuation with $78 billion. It has funding from some of the world's highest-profile investors, including Japanese conglomerate SoftBank (also an investor in Uber). However, TikTok has already come under fire from government regulators and parents for data-privacy concerns and what some critics call predatory practices on the app regarding children.

And additional concerns were raised this week by data rights advocate David Carroll, an associate professor of media design whose 2017 lawsuit against Cambridge Analytica indirectly led to a January criminal conviction of the administrators of Cambridge Analytica in the UK.

If the cataclysmic scandal taught us anything, it was that some of the secrets of the data trade wars are buried in the fine print no one reads. In preparation for when my kids begin asking about the hugely popular lip-sync app TikTok, I dug into its privacy policy and its recent revisions. If you joined TikTok before 2019, what I found should worry you... Having learned the crucial lesson of data sovereignty through my experiences with Facebook's favorite democracy-destabilizing personality quiz, I'm now hyper-sensitized to the question of where our personal data ends up... I did the thing that almost no one does: I read their privacy policy. I was alarmed to see this section, which in late 2018 stated that TikTok user data may be transferred to China.

This discovery leads him to one inevitable question. "Is TikTok a Chinese Cambridge Analytica data bomb waiting to explode?"


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