VT and RU experts talk TikTok security concerns

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 2:42 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - TikTok is one of the newest crazes in the realm of social media, but experts say just like every social media site, it collects personal data from users.

The issue in this case is the app is owned by a Chinese company, meaning the Chinese Government can access the data.

“Even when you’re not producing content, they’re still tracking you and still understanding you, so you really have to understand the settings,” said Donna Wertalik, Virginia Tech Director of Marketing Strategy and Analytics for the Pamplin College of Business.

“Under Chinese law, Chinese companies are required to produce for the Chinese government whatever it is that the Chinese government wants that the company has,” said Art Carter, Director of Radford University’s School of Computing Information Science. “Which in this case, what the social media platform TikTok has is data on its users.”

He says there could be software downloaded with the app that we don’t even know about yet.

“I think that is a valid concern, that if you download the app on the device, you may be downloading things that you don’t know about,” Carter said. “The equivalent for other things will be like downloading some kind of malware, or ransomware or something like that.”

Wertalik says there are a few ways to take precautions against giving out too much personal data.

“It’s so easy to go to general settings and go into privacy and just see who has access,” she said. “Is your account public? Is it private? Every single time in terms of ads, what ads you’re seeing, why are you seeing those? There’s all sorts of simple settings.”

The American Government is debating taking action on the app and it could end being banned altogether.

“Now we’ve got apps that everyone under the sun is using and it’s fun, and it’s easy and it’s so customizable, because the the algorithm works so well, but at what cost?” Wertalik said. “How much information? What are they building off of this?”