Computer science professor explains TikTok and data tracking

TikTok faces U.S. social media ban
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 10:36 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The social media app TikTok is facing being banned over concerns of data security and people are wondering what this potential data theft could mean for the average person.

TikTok’s fate in the United States is uncertain, but at the very least many people are claiming it’s a security threat.

Dr. Maxwell Omwenga, a computer science professor with the University of Evansville, says if you’re using any app, particularly social media apps, chances are, it’s tracking your data.

“If you install any app, it will ask you would you like to share location would you like to share contacts would you like to share photo drive,” says Dr. Omwenga. “So if you allow that, you’re giving the permission to that application to go ahead and do that.”

Dr. Omwenga says that’s typically what’s meant when someone says an app has accessed “your data,” your location to be added to the top of a post, or contacts to find your friends more easily. However, most apps tend to store that data.

“You may say no or yes, but as soon as you say yes, that means it will pick that and access your phone, but you’re not sure if it’s going to use that for the app only or it is going to copy that somewhere online,” Dr. Omwenga says.

That’s where the concern has risen from for the app TikTok.

While TikTok is a relative newcomer, this practice is far from unique.

While apps like Facebook or Twitter are already storing your data, TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns that certain Chinese laws could force the company to present that data to the Chinese government. In congressional hearings, ByteDance CEO Shou Chew has denied that.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the app as lawmakers consider a ban, but for its users, Omwenga says just be safe with your passwords and understand that any app could be tracking you if you let it.

“Be aware that the more platforms they are on, the more likely it is that their data is being shared,” says Omwenga.

A possible ban has been opposed by many groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, which says that would be a First Amendment violation.

Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy is among other lawmakers that have said they would support a bill to ban TikTok.