It may seem surprising for a wealth management company to blog about a social media app, but TikTokposes such a unique threat to personal privacy, security, and finances, we felt motivated to write about it. All social media apps track and store user data in one way or another. But unlike TikTok, owned by China-based company ByteDance, other apps offer options to users which allow them to control what and how much information they share, how their content is published, and who sees it. TikTok does not.

TikTok’s Terms of Service contract is so lengthy it’s unlikely most users read it. And yet when the terms are agreed to, the app is given permission to use a person’s information in any way they want, and they can share the user’s content with anyone they choose, including content that was not shared via the app but simply composed. And there’s no way to opt out of certain aspects of the agreement and still use the app. It’s all or nothing. 

The Chief Information Security Officer for Evotek, Matt Stamper, who is also a member of the San Diego chapter of InfraGard, a partnership between the FBI and the private sector working to prevent hostile acts against the U.S., told CBS 8 that TikTok poses a “clear and present danger” in the amount of data that is collected. He said that users should be aware they are “allowing TikTok to potentially access your IP address, geolocation related data, browsing and search history, mobile carrier, model of your device, device system, and app and file names”. 

According to TikTok, approximately 138 million Americans of voting age use TikTok daily and open the app as many as 8 times per day spending an average of 95 minutes scrolling content. That’s a lot of working Americans using an app that is known to share user data, browsing history, location, and biometric identifiers with China. Examples of Biometrics are fingerprints, retinal scans, shape of the body, facial recognition, etc. 

Business owners should be concerned about employees using their personal phones for work when they have TikTok downloaded on the same device. TikTok related scams are on the rise and hackers are texting users phishing links that, when clicked, allow the hacker access to the user’s phone and any sensitive information on it, IP address, account information, etc. That would include the login and password for the company website, and possibly client information, company information, and any and all work-related files the employee may have accessed from their personal device.

Republicans and Democrats agree that “strict structural restrictions” are needed if not a total ban of TikTok in the U.S. The Biden Administration contacted the owners of ByteDance and said they need to sell the app or face a possible ban in the U.S. And more than half of Americans support banning the use of TikTok in our country. I guess we can say one positive thing about the app, it’s gotten most of the country and Republicans and Democrats to finally agree on something!