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TikTok draws the ire of senators for collecting biometrics

TikTok draws the ire of senators for collecting biometrics
 

Not so fast, a pair of U.S. Senators are telling TikTok executives. The video-first social media service has begun collecting biometric identifiers such as faceprints and voiceprints from its subscribers.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and John Thune, R-S.D. sent a letter of protest to Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok.

According to National Public Radio, the pair are “alarmed” at news that TikTok’s privacy policy now gives the company the right to collect biometric information. The firm is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio separately has asked President Joe Biden to ban TikTok after news that the Chinese government now has a one percent stake in ByteDance and a board seat.

Rubio likely is just working to raise his profile before his next run for president.

Banning a social media network in the United States would be a technically difficult task because so much of the Internet’s infrastructure is privately owned. And given that TikTok is a cultural icon domestically any moves against it would probably result in calls from parents irritated with the predictable complaints by their tweens and teens.

As Congressmembers have done in the very recent past with other vendors, Klobuchar and Thune are asking important questions of TikTok. If only lawmakers would take a wider and longer view and use the questions to create national policy on the topic. Amon their questions:

Does TikTok take biometric data from children?

Does the company make inferences about subscribers banded on biometric data?

And, what other organizations have access to the data that TikTok collects?

The European Union, which is significantly further down the privacy policy road, is suing TikTok for biometric data privacy violations under the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.

In February, TikTok settled a $92 million biometric privacy lawsuit in Illinois. The company was accused of violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

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