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TikTok tells senators others collect more data. But is it that kind of numbers game?

TikTok tells senators others collect more data. But is it that kind of numbers game?

An executive with the video social media platform TikTok refused to be cornered by U.S. senators on questions about biometric identification of its subscribers during a hearing Tuesday.

Michael Beckerman, head of TikTok’s public policy unit, offered non-answers and equivocations about face- and voiceprints and the like, according to TechCrunch.

ByteDance, the Chinese parent of TikTok, this summer changed the platform’s privacy policy to say it reserves the right to collect those and other biometrics.

Beckerman reportedly told senators that outsiders looking at social media have said TikTok collects less subscriber data than its competitors, implying that fewer identifiers collected means greater privacy for people.

However, The Wall Street Journal yesterday showed how a single online behavior can very quickly build a profile of subscribers that is so accurate to them that it spooks them.

An investigation by the Journal showed that simply by noting which video snippets someone pauses over, and for how long the pause lasts, TikTok algorithms can determine what a person is interested in.

The algorithm can sometimes do this within a matter of minutes and without any other data from or about a subscriber.

Content providers and government watchers globally use slates of similar identification techniques.

It is the argument used by Beckerman, that fewer biometric tools are better for privacy, that is noteworthy. That assumption, combined with the two-step he performed every time a senator asked for details about TikTok’s data-collection practices, makes privacy advocates more aggressive in their questioning.

A pair of senators this summer raised questions about TikTok’s biometrics policy.

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