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California lawsuit accuses TikTok of sending data to China

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In a shocking incident, a California lawsuit has accused Tiktok of procuring data illegally and secretly sending that to China. A college student in California has held Tiktok responsible for gathering data on her from the videos, which she claims she never ever posted, that were sent to Chinese servers.

It is important to note that the app has been downloaded over 750 million times in the previous year. TikTok becomes the first global application sourced from China, which amassed itself as such a big user base all across the globe. Its fandom seems incessant and ever-increasing at the same time.

The incident occurred before Thanksgiving Day when the class-action lawsuit was filed against the video giant, which has become popular in all quarters of the world in recent times. The college student, who goes by the name Misty Hong hailing from Paulo Alto, California, has alleged that Tiktok amassed huge amounts of data on its users, without their knowledge or consent.

Misty further held that the Chinese company had been gathering all data from users without their permission, and further, it was also letting it out to the servers based in China. Data was transported from the United States to China.

Miss Hong alleged TikTok has secretively “vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data.”

Source: NYtimes

The data that was sent to Chinese servers included details on locations of users, ages of the users, their personal and private messages, their phone numbers, the communication address, and contacts, info on genders, data entered at the time of registration, etc. The accusation is undoubtedly a massive blow to the global social media app.

It has been alleged that other sorts of massive data like private search and browsing histories, cell-phone serial numbers, and IP addresses have been compromised too. Hong had downloaded the app somewhere in March or April 2019. She alleged that after installing the app, it created an account in her name.

The alleged account was created with her phone number, without her giving any consent for the same. She had not signed up either but simply installed it. She stated that there was a dossier of videos that she knew nothing about. Neither, she agreed on having information about the said account in her name.

She has filed the lawsuit on behalf of all people of the United States that had installed and used the Chinese app. The number of such people accounts for about 110 million of them. Misty charged the company of gathering information of her people and sent all of it to servers owned by companies that work in favor of the Chinese govt.

According to her lawsuit that she filed, the data included a scan of her face also. Moreover, information about the devices of users and their browsing history was stored and transferred too. As per the lawsuit, without users’ consent, TikTok transferred user’s personal data to two servers based in China, which are named bugly.qq.com and umeng.com

ByteDance is the parent Chinese company to TikTok. Hong’s lawyers stated that there is an intermediary stage between recording and saving of a video. It was during this time that the video is saved and sent to ByteDance’s servers. The alleged transfer happens without the users’ knowledge, according to the claims.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) wrote a letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire in which they warned the intelligence authorities of the risks that the Chinese app TikTok poses on National security and people’s privacy. It was done in the wake of Misty’s accusation that Hong’s lawyers claimed and filed.

Now, it is equally important to know what stance the Chinese platform TikTok has maintained over the whole issue. The video-sharing and social media app said that it stored and saved its users’ data in the United States only. Especially in Virginia, the data was stored and not sent to any servers in China. They also agreed on having a backup of the data in Singapore.

It should be reminded that the social media app had already been facing a national security probe by the United States govt over possibilities of data storage of its users, and the concerns of probable or impending censorship on political content shown on the app loomed over it. The recent episode related to spying and illegal data storage plus transfer then acts as a major blow nonetheless.

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