It's official, TikTok is using your face and voice data

The social media platform just announced a big privacy update.

by Rachel Finn
05 June 2021, 12:04pm

It’s no secret that apps love to hoard our data, but the question of just how much information they should be holding on us remains up for debate. Now, in a new privacy policy update from TikTok, the app admits it may be collecting more data than we previously thought.

In the social media platform’s latest U.S. privacy policy update released this week, TikTok has introduced a new section that says the app “may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information”, which includes things like “faceprints and voiceprints”.

Like many apps, TikTok already holds a lot of data on its users, including location data, the messages you send in the app, the app and file names on your device and your keystroke patterns and rhythms, among other things. This is the first time, however, that TikTok has officially written its collection of your biometric data into its privacy policy.

The policy continues: “We may collect information about the images and audio that are a part of your User Content… to enable special video effects, for content moderation, for demographic classification, for content and ad recommendations, and for other non-personally-identifying operations.”

It also adds that it will ask your permission to collect this data “where required by law”. However, as only a few U.S. states have biometric privacy laws - currently California, Illinois, New York, Texas and Washington - this could mean TikTok doesn't have to ask permission to collect this data from anyone in other states.

Biometric data is used for everything from verifying identity to surveillance and your device probably already stores it. For example, if you open your phone with Face ID or buy things using your fingerprint, you’re already sharing that data anyway.

But exactly why an app like TikTok would need similar data on you remains a little unclear, as it already collects a lot of data to do the things it mentions, such as recommending us content or enabling video effects.

According to TechCrunch, when reached for comment a TikTok spokesperson was unable to explain in more detail the company’s plans for collecting biometric data, or define what exactly it means by “faceprints” or “voiceprints”.

The spokesperson said: “As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we recently updated our Privacy Policy to provide more clarity on the information we may collect.”