An app like TikTok stores a lot of data, explains Van Gastel. “Every time you browse the app, they store how many seconds you watch which video. You can often infer your political or sexual preferences, so they can know a lot, all that data is stored in a certain profile.”
And the existence of such a profile can have major consequences, explains Van Gastel. “Because such a company resells the data. This can have consequences, because if you know the sexual preference of, for example, a politician, this person can be blackmailed. Or you can use it to better send misinformation, if you tell your target the group knows best.”
Don’t sleep peacefully
It is not known what data these employees have access to. Despite several requests, TikTok does not wish to clarify this. It is also unclear which employees have these rights.
According to Van Gastel, users of the app are not yet at great risk, but: “You don’t know what happens to the data. I wouldn’t sleep so peacefully if all my data was stored by TikTok, because the data may leak.”
Van Gastel is also concerned about other applications. In his research, he examines the privacy impact of various apps and examines where the data ends up. For example, he researched the meditation app Head space. “The data went directly to China. This app has access to your microphone and data from other apps on your phone, and they went directly to China.”
Should we really delete these apps from our phone right away? “Actually yes. If it’s really necessary, buy a second phone for these kinds of applications. Or take a paper notebook to keep track of things, that works well too, of course.”
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