TikTok quietly changed US privacy policies days ahead of Biden executive order
Biden's new executive order reverts previous one by the Trump administration
TikTok quietly changed its U.S. privacy policies last week, allowing the app to collect biometric data, or measurements of a user's physical features that make them identifiable, such as face identification.
The update came on June 2 — a week before President Biden issued an executive order Wednesday dropping the Trump administration's order to block U.S. operations with TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps like WeChat.
The new order also calls for a security review of the apps.
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"We may collect information about the images and audio that are a part of your User Content, such as 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 app's updated privacy policies read, as first reported by tech news outlet TechCrunch.
The purpose of collecting biometric data on TikTok is for enabling "special video effects, for content moderation, for demographic classification, for content and ad recommendations, and for other non-personally-identifying operations," the policies state.
"We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined under US laws, such as faceprints and voiceprints, from your User Content. Where required by law, we will seek any required permissions from you prior to any such collection," the policies continue.
TikTok also collects information from messages sent within the app, metadata, location data, device information and cookies (data on a user's device that makes targeted advertising possible).
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U.S. courts have successfully blocked the former administration's August 2020 order banning the apps, which cited national security concerns due to a 2017 Chinese law that orders Chinese companies to share data with the government upon request.
"President Biden revoked and replaced three E.O.s that aimed to prohibit transactions with TikTok, WeChat, and eight other communications and financial technology software applications; two of these E.O.s are subject to litigation," the president's Wednesday executive order reads.
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The Biden administration issued a new executive order directing "the use of a criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to address the risks posed by [information and communications technology and services] transactions involving" Chinese-developed or Chinese-controlled apps "that may present an undue or unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States and the American people."
The order also "directs the Department of Commerce, in consultation with other U.S. departments and agencies, to make recommendations to protect against harm from the sale, transfer of, or access to sensitive personal data, including personally identifiable information and genetic information – to include large data repositories – to persons owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of, foreign adversaries."
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TikTok is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, though the social media app has repeatedly said it does not share any user information with the Chinese Communist Party.
Neither company immediately responded to inquiries from FOX Business regarding the order.
The virtual private network (VPN) company Surfshark labeled TikTok as the fourth-most "data-hungry social media app" behind Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram and Linkedin. It also ranked the app as the 12th most "data-hungry" app overall out of 200 total apps.