Podcaster and political commentator Joe Rogan has expressed his concerns about Americans who use the social media platform TikTok who may unknowingly be handing over their data to the Chinese government.
TikTok, which is known as Douyin in China, is a video-hosting service where users can upload and share short clips and videos. It is owned by Bytedance Ltd, a major tech company based in Beijing.
Although the company is not directly controlled by the Chinese government, under China’s strict laws, all businesses are required to share data with the government, including any data acquired from foreign users should they be requested to do so.
“I read TikTok’s terms of service, I went down a TikTok rabbit hole yesterday…This is so crazy,” said Rogan on his podcast.
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“‘User agent, mobile carrier, time zone settings, identifiers for advertising purpose, model of your device, the device system, network type, device IDs, your screen resolution and operating system, app and file names and types,” he continued.
“So all your apps and all your file names, all the things you have filed away on your phone, they have access to that,” he said. “‘File names and types, keystroke patterns or rhythms.’”
“So they’re monitoring your keystrokes, which means they know every f—ing thing you type,”
Under its How We Share Your Information section of the policy, TikTok confirms that it will “comply with applicable law, legal process or government requests, as consistent with internationally recognized standards.”
It comes as former employees of the social media giant, which has over one billion active users, said the company demanded that they advertise and encourage pro-China content and cover up any content that was critical of the Chinese government.
According to 15 employees from Bytedance, the company’s news website, TopBuzz, had a system that would flag reporting on the Chinese government along with nudity, hate speech or any reference to the Disney character Winnie the Pooh – as Chinese president Xi Jinping is mockingly compared to the fictional bear.
Earlier this month, TikTok executives admitted that the company has full access to the data it obtains from US users. In leaked audio footage from a TikTok meeting which was obtained by BuzzFeed, employees can be heard saying that “everything is seen in China”.
In another meeting last September, one director refers to a Beijing-based engineer as a “Master Admin” who “has access to everything”.
While the company was forced to backtrack on its initial claim that US user’s data was kept completely private, ByteDance still insists that the data is not shared with the Chinese government.