Leaked documents show what it looks like when TikTok hands over a user's data to police

  • Newly leaked police documents show what it looks like when TikTok hands over information on one of its users to law enforcement.
  • The documents were published as part of "BlueLeaks," a data dump by the transparency group DDoSecrets that included hundreds of thousands of sensitive police documents.
  • They show TikTok can tell police a user's name, phone number, IP addresses, device information, and details of other social media accounts linked to their TikTok account.
  • TikTok's policy of providing information to law enforcement isn't new, and it mirrors the policies of most other major tech companies. But the leaked documents provide new insight into how the process works, and shows how much information TikTok can glean from users. 
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Like all apps, TikTok is constantly collecting information about its users. Newly leaked documents show what happens when that information is requested by police.

The documents first surfaced as part of BlueLeaks, a data dump of hundreds of thousands of sensitive police files from across the globe obtained by anonymous hackers and published by the transparency group DDoSecrets. The server that hosted BlueLeaks was taken offline by German authorities this week, but before they were removed Business Insider obtained copies of TikTok reports on specific users sent to police departments.

TikTok's practice of providing user data to police is not new, or particularly unique — all social media platforms are required by law to comply with court orders or subpoenas demanding information about users suspected of criminal activity.

But the leaked files reveal just how much data TikTok can collect — including from users who never created an account — and how it shares that data with law enforcement.

One leaked document sent from TikTok to police includes details on a user's handle, phone number, model of smartphone, sign-up date, and a list of IP addresses from which they logged into TikTok. It also includes details on the user's other social media accounts tied to their TikTok — in this case, the report notes that the user signed up for TikTok via Facebook, and includes a unique ID tied to their Facebook account.

While not included in this document, TikTok's terms of service note that the company may also send law enforcement logs of a user's videos, comments, and interactions. It also notes that it can send law enforcement information gleaned from people who downloaded the app but never created an account.

TikTok received 100 requests from US law enforcement regarding 107 accounts in the second half of 2019, and it fulfilled 82 of those requests, according to its 2019 transparency report.

However, TikTok is taking steps to reshape which governments around the globe can access user data. The company said it would withdraw from Hong Kong this week and make its app inoperable to users there in order to avoid complying with a new security law imposed by China that would punish people in Hong Kong for voicing dissent.

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