TikTok claims that the US and India have made the most requests for access to user data
TikTok has claimed that the Chinese government made zero requests for user information or content removal in six months of 2019.
India and US governments made most requests for access to user data and content removal in the first six months of 2019.
The inaugural transparency report of TikTok comes as the spies of espionage and privacy grow, but TikTok claims that the Communist Party of China has not made any request of this nature.
But privacy protector Paul Bischoff says it would be naive to assume that TikTok is outside of China’s censorship.
He slammed the report as unfairly and says the app has repeatedly removed content and banned accounts from critical users of the Chinese government.
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Owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance and based in Beijing, the app claims that it did not receive any request from the Communist Party of China in the first six months of 2019 (photo of the file)
WHAT IS TIKTOK?
Tik Tok is a Chinese social media app where users can stream live, create short videos and music videos and GIFs with many functions.
The slogan of Tik Tok is ‘Let every second count’.
It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, before Instagram and Snapchat.
TikTok is known in China as Douyin, where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available worldwide in 2017.
Douyin is still the version of the app used in China and can be downloaded separately to TikTok.
Last year the app was merged with the popular music video lip synchronizing app Musical.ly, also with its headquarters in China.
Most children use the app to lip-sync themselves to map hits.
It offers users a range of colorful modification and editing tools, including overlapping music, sound, animated stickers, filters, and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos.
The Beijing-based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $ 75 billion (£ 58 billion).
TikTok is blocked in China, but the government would be entitled to submit requests for data for further criminal investigation.
Paul Bischoff, an advocate of privacy at Comparitech.com, told MailOnline: “TikTok has removed content on several occasions and banned accounts from critical users of the Chinese government.
‘The transparency report is unfair. The US and India are at the top of the list because they have gone through official channels to have content removed or to get information about users.
“Just because TikTok says it has not received such requests from Chinese authorities does not mean that it does not censor content and users on behalf of China.
“It would be very naive to assume that TikTok, a Chinese-owned entity, is beyond the influence of China.”
The inaugural transparency report provides details of requests from countries around the world that request different things, including the removal of content that violates local law.
US law enforcement authorities filed 79 requests for access to user data between January 1 and June 30, including six requests for content removal. Most of these (86 percent) were approved by TikTok.
India topped the list with 107 applications in total.
The United Kingdom and Australia have submitted only six and five requests respectively. None of these were provided by TikTok.
The video sharing app exploded in the scene in 2019 and its popularity was only matched by the number of scandals in which it became involved.
The app is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance and claims that it has not received any request from the Communist Party of China in the first six months of 2019.
TikTok said in addition to the publication of the figures: “Government agencies sometimes ask that we remove content that they consider to be a violation of local law.
“We review such requests closely and evaluate the specified content in accordance with our Community Guidelines and local legislation.”
A table with all complaints was accompanied by a prominent note, which stated: “TikTok has not received any government requests to remove or restrict content from countries other than those on the list above.”
China was not among the countries that claimed to have requested content removal.
The report comes at a time when the app is being shot at by countries around the world, especially the US, because of its close ties with the Chinese government.
Spying problems similar to those of technology company Huawei arose in the aftermath of TikTok’s rise for viral fame.
This week, the US Army banned soldiers from using TikTok because of concerns that the Chinese app might collect personal information from US users.
The army announced that the app was no longer allowed on government phones on Monday, as it is considered a cyber threat.
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US law enforcement authorities filed 79 requests for access to user data between January 1 and June 30, including six requests for content removal. Most (86 percent) were approved by TikTok
Army recruiters began using TikTok as a way to reach young people last year and still used it from two months ago, despite calls from legislators to conduct a national security investigation.
Eric Ebenstein, head of TikTok’s public policy, wrote in a blog post: “Like all international internet platforms, TikTok is subject to a variety of laws and regulations in every country.
“Occasionally, we receive requests from various official agencies in the countries where the TikTok app operates, such as government agencies or law enforcement officials, who ask us to perform certain actions.
“These include requests to remove content that is considered to be in violation of local law, or to provide information regarding accounts under certain defined circumstances, such as to assist with a criminal investigation or emergency request.”
Mr. Ebenstein added that the report contains the breakdown of 298 legal requests for information from 28 countries over a 6-month period.
A balancing act is then carried out in-house, Mr. Ebenstein continues, to “weigh up law enforcement responsibilities with our respect for the privacy of our users” and determine what action is required.
He adds: “It also shows how we have responded to 26 requests to remove or limit content from government agencies in 9 countries, and how we have treated copyright removal requests to help copyright holders with their intellectual property to protect.’
TiKTok also says it plans to issue regular reports, presumably at six-month intervals.