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Experts: TikTok app poses security risks

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It's the app that's all the rage.

TikTok, a short-form video app, has been reportedly downloaded over a billion times. It's primarily popular among older children and teenagers, and allows users to sing, dance, or even lip sync their favorite movie lines.

But cyber security experts said people should be wary of the app's reach.

"I think one of the biggest concerns are how people use the app and don't necessarily know who they're interacting with or what data is being collected," said UW Madison professor Don Stanley.

Stanley has been teaching digital marketing at the university since 2008, and pays close attention to how people interact with different social media platforms.

He said one issue that the app poses is the unknowns about who children are interacting with on the app, which does allow messaging between users.

"You have to be very, very conscientious of who is on the other end," he said. "A lot of times younger people don't have those filters up. They assume people don't have nefarious goals."

But there are also national security concerns swirling around Tik Tok, which is owned by a Chinese company.

Lawmakers and other officials are concerned about how much of the users' personal information is accessible by the Chinese government.

Within the last month, the Army and Navy banned the use of the app on government-issued devices.

Chris Carter, the CEO of Wisconsin-based software company Approyo, keeps close tabs on technology around the world in order to keep his client's data and software safe.

He said the armed forces banning the use of the app is a way to prevent foreign groups from accessing the data.

"Now all of a sudden, they see that they're filming inside the federal army base, and maybe they see some things that they can leverage to take that information and use against us," he said.

He also said there have been instances of TikTok user's secure information being exposed to potential hacking opportunities.

Beyond messaging people with potentially harmful intentions, there is concern about data mining for kids who aren't just watching the videos but making them.

"Be a parent," said Carter. "See what they're doing on this app, see if they are downloading. You never know what they're downloading or who they're downloading it to."

He said he's banned both is daughters from using it, and suggests people take it off their phones.

Stanley said he just cautions users and parents to be cognizant of who they interact with on the app.

"Be real careful about what you're sharing, what you're liking, and who you're engaging with," he said. "Just be thoughtful about that."

Sara Maslar-Donar

Reporter, WKOW 27 News

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