CBA Sept.-Oct. 2020
to analyze the data to trace the movements of celebrities and high-ranking government employees, among others. For a family lawyer working with a client who is trying to leave an abusive relationship, location data can be a huge risk factor. While it is unlikely that the abusive party might obtain a leaked data set from an ethically-minded employee of an advertising conglomerate, it is fairly likely that they might have some degree of access to the client’s data via shared (or hacked) accounts. For example, something as simple as access to an iCloud account can reveal sent and received messages, emails, photos, and location information. If the TikTok controversy has no other real implications for you, let it be a reminder to regularly audit the apps on your phone and your privacy settings. You need to know what apps collect what information, and whether or not you can take steps to restrict what is collected (for example, Find My iPhone can be temporarily deactivated, but location information is crucial to an app such as GoogleMaps’ functioning). Remind clients to do the same. To learn more about the data practices of one major tech company and what you can do to preserve as much privacy as possible, check out the archived CLE seminar “Keep Tabs On How Google Collects Your Data” from February of this year. And as always, please feel free to reach out to me at ahaag@ chicagobar.org with any questions or com- ments you might have on this topic.
LPMT BITS & BYTES BY ANNE HAAG What Do Your Apps KnowAbout You?
T here has been no shortage of news to occupy our attention in 2020, but the controversy surroundingTikTok is perhaps worthy of more attention than many readers of this column might have been inclined to give it. TikTok is a video- sharing app that is wildly popular withGen- eration Z, but its popularity beyond that is probably directly reduced in proportion to how many years beyond that generation you’re removed. As an elderly millennial, I’ve never been on TikTok. And I under- stand the urge to write off this controversy as irrelevant, especially when so much else deserves more immediate attention. How- ever, some important points bear revisiting. But first, some explanation of the app and the controversy that surrounds it. With TikTok, users share or watch short-form, 60-second videos on any topic. The app is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance, and this is where things get complicated. In early August, the president signed an executive order that would ban TikTok from operating in the United States if ByteDance doesn’t sell it by September 15. This move is based on the fear that ByteDance might be forced to hand over TikTok’s user data to the Chinese govern- ment or censor content the Chinese govern- ment finds offensive. A ban would remove the app from app stores and would prevent the app from being able to send software updates to American users, eventually making it unusable. It would also preclude Anne Haag is the CBA’s Law Practice Management Advisor, a certified crisis intervention counselor, and a volunteer withResilienceas a trauma- informed ER advocate for sexual assault survivors.
American companies from advertising on the platform. After the August announcement,TikTok sued the Trump administration in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, whereTikTok’s American opera- tions are based. There has been much talk of various US companies buyingTikTok in order to preserve its operations, Twitter and Microsoft being the apparent frontrunners. By the time this is published, more develop- ments will probably have occurred. Exactly what user information does TikTok store? For users who want to create, share, or interact with someone else’s video on the app, they must create an account and indicate their age, phone number, and email address. In its terms of service, the app informs users that it collects location data, browsing history, and per- sonal contacts. That’s a lot of information, and it might sound alarming. These terms also indicate that the data might be shared with parent company ByteDance. The biggest difference between TikTok and apps such as Facebook, Insta- gram, andTwitter has to do with the foreign ownership of its parent company. TikTok’s data collection practices aren’t terribly dif- ferent from these other apps, but the issue lies in what it is and isn’t required to do with that data based on Chinese laws, versus American laws. The significance of this is an individual decision, but the story offers an opportune moment to take stock of the apps you use and examine how those apps use your (or your clients’) data. Location data is one of the most revealing sets of information routinely col- lected by apps on smart phone. The data is supposedly anonymized and regularly sold to third-parties who use the information for advertising purposes. However, when one such data set was leaked to a reporter at The NewYorkTimes , the reporter was able
The CBA Law Practice Management and Technology Division is sponsoring a free webinar, “How To… Conduct Depositions Online in the Wake of Covid-19,” on September 24 from 10:30-11:30 a.m. 0.5 IL PR-MCLE Credit (pending). Learn more and register at www.chicagobar.org/cle.
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