TikTok updates US privacy policy to collect ‘faceprints and voiceprints’ (but doesn’t explain what they are)


TikTok has been updated its privacy policy in the US to inform users that the app may collect new types of biometric information in the future, including “facial prints and voice impressions.” But when reached by The edge, TikTok was unable to explain what types of data these terms refer to, or why the app would need to access this information in the first place.

The company’s privacy policy was updated on June 2, as noted by TechCrunch. (An archived version of the old policy may be: read here.) The new policy describes in some detail the ways the TikTok app now has permission to analyze users’ content.

The policy states:

“We may collect information about the images and audio that are part of your User Content, such as identifying the objects and landscapes that appear, the existence and location within an image of facial and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your user content. We may collect this information to enable special video effects, for content moderation, for demographic classification, for content and advertising recommendations, and for other non-personally identifiable operations.”

As is often the case with privacy policies, there’s a lot of confusion here between results that users are likely to be okay with (such as adding video effects) and results that they believe are more invasive (such as ad targeting and “demographic ranking”). lots of broad language used to cover any future updates TikTok may add to the platform.

The new privacy policy is more explicit that the app can now collect biometric data – that is, measuring physical characteristics, including the aforementioned “facial prints and voice prints.” Under the policy, TikTok will ask users for consent before collecting this information, but only if required to do so by law. As TechCrunch notes, this doesn’t mean much in the US, as only one few states (including Illinois, Texas, and California) provide this type of legal protection. And indeed, TikTok might think agreeing to the terms of service is all the consent it needs.

It’s possible that the changes to TikTok’s privacy policy are in response to a recent national class action lawsuit against the company, in which it agreed to pay $92 million to plaintiffs alleging various privacy violations. As we reported on the case in February, “As part of the settlement, TikTok has agreed to avoid various behaviors that could compromise users’ privacy unless it specifically discloses that behavior in its privacy policy.” When asked whether these changes were in response to the class action lawsuit, TikTok declined to comment on the record.

In response to several questions about what data the company collects on users now, how it defines “facial and voice prints,” what data it might collect in the future, and what it might do with that information, a spokesperson said only: “If As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we have recently updated our privacy policy to provide greater clarity about the information we may collect.”

There is more information, yes, but still not much clarity. For an app grappling with various privacy issues (the perception of which is often exacerbated by political paranoia), there seems to be more work to be done.