Iowa cybersecurity expert: TikTok ‘doesn’t play nice’

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 10:14 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa has joined other states in banning the app TikTok on state-owned devices, but how much of a security risk is it?

“Threat, that’s a hard word to define,” said Doug Jacobson with the Center for Cybersecurity Innovation and Outreach at Iowa State University. He hedged when labeling the app as a risk on a personal device, but also described how it’s more invasive of a person’s privacy than other platforms.

“Many of the other apps stay in their little sandbox,” said Jacobson. “What you do on Facebook, it tracks everything you do on Facebook. Facebook captures all that data.”

He added, “TikTok’s issue is, at least what people are reporting is, it is reaching outside of TikTok and reaching into your phone and grabbing stuff.” He went on to say, “What gets off your clipboard, the videos you watch, your search history, access to your files, so, it doesn’t play nice.”

Jacobson said that data collection, combined with the fact that the app is owned by a Chinese company, is leading to fears over security.

TV9 spoke with two college students about TikTok Wednesday. Skyler Lewis at Coe College said, “On average, I use it an hour and a half, two hours a day.” Kendall France at the University of Iowa said, “If I had the time, probably like, three hours or more a day.”

While both students were big-time users of the app, they weren’t so much concerned with security.

“I feel like with social, you know, there’s always privacy concerns. So I’m like, whatever,” said France.

Jacobson was also rather nonchalant. “If I had TikTok, I wouldn’t get rid of it because of what I’ve, you know, because of this Chinese data collection.”

However, Jacobson does believe the ban of the app on state-owned devices is a logical move. “I definitely agree with, yeah, you shouldn’t be running this on state equipment. Probably shouldn’t be running other social media on state equipment, just due to the fact that they tend to keep track of information about about people,” said Jacobson.