Why don't people find TikTok lame

"Urgently delete this app": More and more warnings about Tiktok

The Indian government recently banned a number of apps from Chinese developers. The reason is fears that valuable information from users will end up with the Chinese authorities via these programs.

The booming social network Tiktok is one of the banned programs, which has lost hundreds of millions of users in one fell swoop. Now there is a potentially serious data protection problem.

Permanent access

Tiktok is one of a number of apps that access the operating system's clipboard. The clipboard is basically a storage space for content that is moved or copied. But while many apps only use this access once at the start, Tiktok does this regularly on iOS.

Every one to three entries is read from the clipboard, writes Jeremy Burge from "Emojipedia". This shows him the beta version of iOS 14 via the new "Paste Notifications" tool. The developer of the "Vice" app documents to the medium that Tiktok looks at the clipboard around once per second.

Always under suspicion

It's not the first time the app has come under suspicion. Two months ago, a user reported on Reddit who, according to his own statements, reverse-engineered Tiktok's software, i.e. technically disassembled it and understood how it worked in detail. According to him, the program queries a wide variety of data, from the hardware configuration of the cell phone to other installed apps or the name of the WLAN used and sometimes also to the location determined by GPS. In the viral posting, he described it as a "thinly disguised data collection service" and recommended that users uninstall it as soon as possible.

These observations are now making the rounds on the Internet again. They now even agree with the hacker collective Anonymous, which Tiktok describes as "malware operated by the Chinese government".

In addition, there are studies by the security experts from Zimperium and Penetrum (PDF). Both consider Tiktok to be a considerable security and data protection risk. Penetrum also explicitly refers to connections in Chinese politics and to Chinese Internet providers.

Repeat offenders

Access to the clipboard isn't entirely new either. The operators had already been confronted with this behavior of their app in March and promised to the "Telegraph" to stop it within the next few weeks. A month later nothing had changed, which cybersecurity journalist Zak Doffman at "Forbes" was blaming on an outdated software component from a third party.

After the release of the iOS 14 beta, Doffman got in touch again and suddenly received information that contradicts the previous statements. Now Tiktok argued that the high-frequency access to the clipboard was necessary to combat spam.

Again they promised improvement and stated that the Android edition was not affected because the anti-spam function had not been implemented there. It remains to be seen whether words will be followed by action this time.

Chinese influence on moderation

In terms of the moderation of the content, the operators had to take criticism in the last few months. At the end of 2019, US employees told the Washington Post that they had little influence over the rules for dealing with different content, since the final decision would always be made by moderators at the Beijing headquarters. Again and again there would be guidelines to censor or bury topics that are a thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

Observers attribute these problems in part to the explosive growth of the platform, with which the company structure could not keep up. The leadership of the US department of the company assured that they are working to improve the situation and that they are in no way bound by the Chinese censorship rules. (gpi, July 2nd, 2020)