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Senators challenge TikTok’s plans to collect users’ biometrics

Senators in the US have decided to challenge TikTok’s new and “alarming” plans to collect users’ biometrics in the form of identifiers. This comes after the company had announced a change to its privacy policy a while ago, granting itself the authority to collect voice and face biometrics from its users. The same has triggered a growing concern among lawmakers in the States, who demand to know the exact kind of data collected by the social media platform, along with how it plans to use that data.

Senators TikTok's users' biometrics

Image Credits: TikTok

Demanding An Explanation

It may be noted that should the Senators have their way, TikTok will be forced to explain its new plans, especially since they have been called out for being rather vague. Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Thune sent a letter to TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew, highlighting how the new development has left them “alarmed.” The new policy will allow TikTok to collect user biometrics automatically, and the data can potentially include “physical and behavioural characteristics” from videos that are posted by users.

One should consider that even though the Chinese video sharing platform had vaguely mentioned in its updated privacy policy that it would be seeking the “required permissions” to collect faceprints and voiceprints from users wherever necessitated by the law, it did not specify whether by “law,” it meant only state laws, federal laws, or both.

Excessive Collection Of Data?

In their letter, the Senators demand that TikTok fully explain what it means by “voiceprints and faceprints,” and also shed light on how long the data will be retained, as well as the purpose for which it plans to use the collected data. Also mentioned in the letter are questions about whether or not data is being collected from users under 18, and about whether the company makes any inferences based on the data. A list of all third parties having access to the data has also bene sought.

The company has not yet responded to the letter, which claims that user privacy has become even more important amid the pandemic. TikTok has until August 25 to respond to the questions.

Earlier this year, the Chinese firm had to shell out $92 million in order to settle a class-action suit alleging it of unlawfully collecting its users’ biometric data, and shading the same with third parties. In 2019 as well, it had been slammed with a fine of $5.7 million by the FTC, over allegations of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).





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