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Reddit CEO calls TikTok spyware, ‘fundamentally parasitic’

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TikTok is under scrutiny from Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman for practices he calls “fundamentally parasitic,” referring to serious privacy concerns surrounding the app.

The app is a video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company established in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. TikTok launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in markets outside of China.

Huffman said one of the suspicious practices the company partakes in is fingerprinting, a method of tracking devices for each unique visitor, according to The Verge.

“Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with [TikTok],” Huffman said at the Social 2030 venture capital conference. “I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.”

Research by data protection expert Matthias Eberl highlights the fingerprinting Huffman refers to as an aggregate of audio and browser tracking, allowing the company to know the types of content each user is following. TikTok parent company ByteDance claims the fingerprinting methods are for recognizing malicious browser behavior, but Eberl offers his skepticism, as the platform seemingly works fine without the scripts enabled.

“I actively tell people, ‘Don’t install that spyware on your phone,’ ” Huffman said of TikTok’s software.

Other figures in the tech industry have expressed qualms with the entertainment app, such as Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

“They’re huge, they’re growing really quickly, they’ve gotten to bigger numbers faster than we ever did,” Sandberg said on an NBC podcast“[TikTok is] a Chinese company, if people are concerned about data, I think there’s a lot to be concerned about there.”

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company to stir up privacy-related fears in the nation. This week, the Senate approved a bill to ban the purchase of Huawei equipment with federal funds, to bar the possibility of the company placing their 5G equipment in the U.S.

Critics of Huawei, the most extensive 5G equipment provider in the world, cite concerns about a 2017 Chinese intelligence law requiring Chinese companies to participate in state-backed intelligence gathering, according to a previous report

Earlier this year, decisions made by the United Kingdom to allow the use of Huawei in external 5G networks set off alarms for the Trump administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reconsider the implementation of the company’s services in fear of endangering intelligence sharing between the U.S. and the U.K.

Tags ByteDance Digital technology Huawei Mike Pompeo Mobile telecommunications Technology

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