TikTok, TikTok: What Does That Sound Mean?

March 30, 2020

DarkCyber noted “TikTok, a Chinese Soft Power Time Bomb in US Living Rooms.” The SCMP is, of course, an independent, real news outfit. The use of the B work in the headline is not accidental. Maybe it is one of those warnings or messages hidden in plain sight. A digital purloined letter is one possibility.

Zoom, partially backed by investors from China, is another video outfit. “Zoom iOS App Sends Data to Facebook Even If You Don’t Have a Facebook Account” reports that video can be an interesting service to provide.

The SCMP article reports:

Privacy advocates and several US congressmen want to rein in the app over concerns it may censor and monitor content for the Chinese government, and be used for misinformation and election interference. This despite the fact that TikTok keeps its servers outside China and swears it will not hand over user data.

Would a Chinese company ignore a government order? Yeah, well, sure in bizarro world.

Zoom, on the other hand, shares data:

What the company and its privacy policy don’t make clear is that the iOS version of the Zoom app is sending some analytics data to Facebook, even if Zoom users don’t have a Facebook account…

Now a few questions:

  1. What data are sent where?
  2. With Chinese influence in both TikTok and Zoom what information finds its way (directly or indirectly) to Chinese data pools?
  3. Why are video services presumed to be innocent, just for fun services when Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other firms are essentially in the data collection and analysis business?

Yesterday a person with a mostly technical work history asked me why my Zoom account is listed under the name of a couple of my dogs and a defunct cigarette brand?

Now you know. A standalone computer. A separate Internet connection. An alias. A drug store debit card. These make me feel a little bit more secure when DarkCyber has to do a video conference call.

Maybe we will create a 30 second video about Zoom, Chinese influence, and data leakage? That’s good for eight or nine views.

Stephen E Arnold, March 30, 2020

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