USA: TikTok wants to collect biometric data including voice expressions


In its data protection declaration for users with main residence in the USA, TikTok added a clause with an update on Wednesday, according to which the operator wants to collect, save and evaluate sensitive data about members’ body features. The new clause states: “We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information such as facial expressions and voice expressions from your user content in accordance with US law. Where required by law, we will obtain all necessary permissions from you prior to such collection. ”

What TikTok needs this data for is not possible from the paragraph. The terms “facial expressions” and “voice expressions” are also not defined in detail. Furthermore, it remains unclear how and in which cases the operator of the social network wants to obtain the consent of the data subjects. The reference to existing legal requirements also remains vague. So far, only a handful of US states such as Illinois, Washington, California, Texas, and New York have specific data protection laws for biometrics.

Compared to the US magazine “TechCrunch” a spokesman for TikTok was initially able to no further details on the company’s plans for the collection of biometric data. It also remains open whether and how these should be integrated into current or future products. The company said, “As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we recently updated our privacy policy to provide more clarity about the information we can collect.”

An explanation of the update itself states that there are clarifications such as “relating to the collection of user content information, the use of data for review, advertising-related choices, the sharing of data with third-party services and data storage / processing practices “go.

Apparently, with the US update, TikTok is responding to a class action lawsuit against the company for violating the Biometric Information Privacy Act of Illinois, which ended in a settlement of 92 million US dollars. It covered over 20 separate cases in which users objected to the platform’s collection and disclosure of personal biometric information without their consent. Specifically, it was about the use of automated face recognition for special filter effects. The TikTok legal team wants to protect itself against future lawsuits with the addition.

The short passage can be found in the newly added section “Image and audio information” under the heading “Information we collect automatically”. In the Data protection declaration for the European Economic Area including the EU as well as for Great Britain and Switzerland it is no more included than in theirs German version. The most recent updates were made in July 2020. In the EU, according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), biometric features are particularly sensitive information that must be specially protected.

The first part of the new section explains that TikTok can collect information about images and audio recordings, for example to identify recognizable objects and the landscape, as well as facial and body features and associated attributes. That sounds pretty extensive, but other social networks such as Facebook and Instagram also use appropriate detection techniques. Among other things, they should help to convert spoken words into text and to create automatic captions.

Overall, TikTok collects extensive personal data about users via the app, as can be seen from other parts of the “Privacy Policy”. This also includes location information and IP addresses as well as detailed information on the devices used. A new insert refers to the operator’s e-commerce ambitions, while another is about adjustments to Apple’s new tracking regulations for personalized advertising. In these areas, the European data protection declaration should soon be refreshed.

Former US President Donald Trump had tried in vain to ban the operation of TikTok in the US. He saw the app as a national security threat because it belongs to the Chinese company Bytedance. TikTok resisted the spell and emphasized that US users’ data would only be stored in local data centers and in Singapore. In principle, no information is passed on to the government in Beijing. The new US President Joe Biden and his cabinet do not yet have a clear strategy for dealing with the social media operator, but Trump’s approach has been stopped for the time being.