China’s TikTok Collecting US Biometrics: Ban TikTok Now

June 5, 2021 Updated: June 7, 2021


China’s social media platform TikTok just changed its privacy policy to allow the collection of American biometric data, such as facial and voice recognition, and potentially fingerprint data as well. The company, which caters to youth ages 13 to 24, can already collect prodigious amounts of information on its hapless users, including name, age, location, social media connections, filenames, and clipboard data.

Owned by Beijing’s ByteDance, the company should have been banned long ago. But it used U.S. courts to fight for access to American households, and now the Democrats are dragging their feet on passing laws or policies that bar TikTok from the United States. Given the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) lies and territorial aggression, which have caused millions of deaths worldwide and a genocide in China, no tech company from China has any place in America, or anywhere that values the lives and freedoms of its citizens.

TikTok has more than 730 million global users who watch the app for on average almost 1.5 hours a day. The United States has more than 100 million TikTok users, including 42 percent between the ages of 18 and 24; another 17 percent are between the ages of 13 and 17. Most of these kids aren’t reading the privacy policy, and have no idea that the CCP is out to take over the world.

TechCrunch reported the June 2 change to TikTok’s privacy policy that says the app “may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information” from users’ content. The company specified “faceprints and voiceprints” but didn’t limit it to these biometrics, which allows it to collect any other biometric information as well, including fingerprints and gait recognition.

I’m waiting for Huawei’s new phone with a pinprick function that collects DNA. In this brave new techno-dystopia, anything is possible. Over the past few decades, our government has allowed Americans to devolve into the Wild West again, with China’s corporations being the new tornado that rips through entire communities and their personal data.

There’s apparently little rhyme or reason to TikTok’s new demands for biometric data. According to TechCrunch, “TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users.”

TikTok’s new privacy policy only requires consent to biometric data harvesting when such consent is required by law.

“We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined under US laws, such as faceprints and voiceprints, from your User Content,” it states. “Where required by law, we will seek any required permissions from you prior to any such collection.”

At the very least, then, the United States needs a federal law requiring as much.

Currently, only a few U.S. states have adopted biometric privacy laws. They include California, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington. Users in other states, therefore, are left entirely vulnerable to the TikTok data scrapers.

In Europe, privacy and data protection laws are stronger than in the United States, so the new privacy policy doesn’t apply there.

TikTok can now collect information on images and audio in users’ content, including “identifying the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content.”

The company could already collect information on user devices such as location, content, messaging, file names, keystroke patterns and rhythms, name, age, photo, social media accounts, phone and social network contacts, payment information, and clipboard contents. Apple previously busted TikTok for collecting clipboard information without user permission.

TikTok admits to keeping U.S. user data in Singapore, from which it can relatively easily be accessed by China’s hackers and intelligence services. The company already paid $92 million to settle a 2020 class-action lawsuit in Illinois for violating that state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. The company allegedly collected and shared personal information and biometrics, including facial information, without user consent.

The Trump administration rightly attempted to ban TikTok, but the company fought us in our own courts. The same wouldn’t be possible for an American company in China, showing how U.S. politicians of both parties—in hock to American corporations doing business in China—have let China walk all over us.

While TikTok claims to never censor content, or provide user data to China’s authorities, ByteDance is required by Chinese law to do so when asked. The company can’t possibly ensure that Chinese authorities, who almost certainly have Chinese Communist Party cells within the company, won’t be able to access the information and provide it to China’s police or intelligence agencies. Nobody who cares about their life or career in China would in their right mind try to stop Chinese officials from walking in the front door, taking whatever they want, and walking right back out.

Flash the badge, and in China, no questions are asked, followed by a criminal silence called omertà.

Meanwhile, the nice-guy Biden administration remains unclear on its position with respect to TikTok. That’s a dereliction of our government’s duty to protect American citizens, and their privacy, from the Chinese regime.

Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Follow Anders on Twitter: @anderscorr