“We may collect information about the images and audio that are a part of your User Content, such as identifying the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content,” TikTok’s changed policy reads.
This makes sense — many of TikTok’s filters need to detect users’ faces in order to correctly apply their virtual makeup and greenscreen effects. Features such as TikTok’s automatic captions have to collect audio in order for the app to transcribe it as well. The difference is that now TikTok is explicitly disclosing this.
“We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined under US laws, such as faceprints and voiceprints, from your User Content,” the policy notes. “Where required by law, we will seek any required permissions from you prior to any such collection.”
Like fingerprints, faceprints and voiceprints are unique to each individual and can be used for security and identification purposes. TikTok does not currently have features that require either, though it isn’t impossible that it will in the future. Being able to gather users’ voiceprints would be useful if the app’s automatic captioning feature was updated to recognise multiple speakers, for example.
The company declined to comment on whether TikTok currently collects biometric information, or what this information is or might be used for.
It’s never nice to learn that you’re being tracked and analysed. However, in a world where nobody can be truly anonymous anymore, being explicitly told that you’re being watched is much preferable to it being done in secret.
UPDATE: June 7, 2021, 10:01 a.m. AEST This article has been updated to include TikTok’s statement.