TikTok scrutiny: user data at risk

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jul 24, 2020

(NBC News) Social media platform TikTok is the home of viral dance videos and growing controversy.

U.S. officials and businesses are expressing privacy and security concerns about the Chinese-owned app, and a number of companies have instructed employees to remove it from their phones.

Despite those concerns, the app continues to grow, expanding its userbase by more than 30 percent in recent months.

Its popularity among young people may also present safety risks.

TikTok accounts are public by default, meaning other users can view videos, location information and send direct messages.

Titania Jordan of monitoring software Bark, says that as the pandemic drives more screen time, young users may be more likely to be exposed to inappropriate content, or worse.

"We noticed over the range of March 13th through today is a 23 percent increase in alerts around online predation," Jordan notes.

Using any social network can be risky, but experts say it is possible to use apps safely, with private accounts and adult supervision.

"If you're having those conversations with your children they will be better served to become responsible digital natives and will be less likely to fall prey to the dangers that exist online," Jordan says.

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