(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) China-owned social-media giant TikTok has been accused of harvesting the data of users who accessed LGBT-related material, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Though the app does not require that users list their sexual orientation, it does track the categories of videos that one watches, using that data to create targeted advertisements through the collection of information.
For more than a year, some employees reportedly had access to a list of those who watched LGBT content, according to whistleblowers at the company.
TikTok executives did not deny the claim. Rather, a company spokesman noted that “safeguarding the privacy and security of people who use TikTok is one of our top priorities.”
The company also claimed that the collected data had been deleted, and it insisted that no inferences were made about sexual orientations based on content.
“TikTok does not identify individuals or infer sensitive information such as sexual orientation or race based on what they watch,” said the statement.
The youth-friendly, video-based platform has been accused in the past of fostering a breeding ground for pedophiles and other sexual predators who can freely identify and communicate with potential victims on it.
The company also has faced widespread accusations in the past of data-mining user information—possibly including facial details that it could use to weaponize artificial-intelligence-based “deep fakes” to sow public confusion in the event of a future U.S. conflict.
Several federal and state lawmakers have moved to ban the use of the app altogether. Montana legislators, for example, recently approved a statewide ban of the social media app.
Republican U.S. senators have also suggested that congressional members be banned from using the app, as they have access to particularly sensitive information.
“We feel this situation warrants further action to protect the privacy of both sensitive congressional information and the personal information of our constituents,” several Senate Republicans wrote. “To that end, we urge you to enact a change to the Senate and House rules to ban members of Congress from using TikTok for official use.”
Of particular note, the news comes in the wake of the Biden administration’s hiring hundreds of TikTok “influencers” to promote the administration’s agenda and to assist with the president’s upcoming re-election effort.