‘It is so addicting’: TikTok tracks more data than a Chinese surveillance balloon

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s the most addicting app for young people across Memphis.

“I spend hours on TikTok every night,” said Terron Simmons.

“It is so addicting,” said Adama Diallo. “I’m on it morning and night. I get on it before I do anything and before I go to sleep, I have to get on it.”

“If I’m not doing anything on my phone, I just go straight to TikTok and I’m just scrolling, scrolling, scrolling,” said Gabby Davis.

However, the app with one billion monthly users is owned by a Chinese company which could likely be sharing data with the Chinese government.

“I hear a lot of concerns about privacy,” said Caleb James.

The recent discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon in the United States highlighted the growing concern about foreign access to American data. Millions of American users might not realize the extent to which they’ve shared data with the Chinese government.

“So I’ve told my own kids, just don’t use Tik Tok,” said Jeff Horton, the president and owner of One Point Solutions Group.

The cybersecurity expert told FOX13 that Chinese companies must agree to share information with the Chinese government, including data that belongs to users from another country.

“Imagine if a foreign government had access to your fingerprint,” he explained. “That doesn’t change. Your phone does facial recognition - which is basically the same thing.”

He recommends deleting TikTok and using an app that is owned by a United States company. For example, Instagram Reels are produced by Meta, which must answer to U.S. lawmakers.

“There’s just a lot of information that the Chinese government could have access to,” he explained. “We don’t know what they would do with it.”

More than a dozen states across the country in addition to the U.S. House of Representatives have banned TikTok from government devices.

With all the recent criticism, Memphis students were split on whether they would keep the device on their phones.

“I’m not really going to be thinking about that,” said Rashuan Wise. “I’m just in it for entertainment.”

“I most definitely see why it would be concerning,” Simmons said.

“Tiktok just might not be the move,” James said.