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TikTok reportedly monitored users who watched LGBTQ content

A TikTok spokesperson told Attitude: "Safeguarding the privacy and security of people who use TikTok is one of our top priorities."

By Emily Maskell

The TikTok app on a phone.
TikTok has reportedly monitored users watching 'LGBT' content in the past. (Image: Unsplash)

TikTok has reportedly monitored users who have watched LGBTQ+ content on the app.

An investigation from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed the app compiled a list of users consuming content tagged “LGBT.”

Between 2020 and 2021, authorised staff could view this information.

According to former TikTok employees, the collection of information then led to worker complaints.

TikTok employees in the US, UK, and Australia also flagged concerns over the discovery of the stored data.

The data collection was also criticised for gathering a list of vulnerable users who could face harassment and violence for being LGBTQ+, or being perceived as such.

Worries over compromised data being used to blackmail people were of real concern. 

“TikTok doesn’t ask users to disclose their sexual orientation, but it cataloged videos users watched under topics such as LGBT,” WSJ reported.

“The collection of information, which could be viewed by some employees through a dashboard, included a set of affiliated users who watched those videos, and their ID numbers.”

Employees declared the dashboard with access to this data was deleted in the US almost a year ago. 

“The data represents users’ interests and isn’t necessarily a sign of someone’s identity”

A TikTok spokesperson told Attitude: “Safeguarding the privacy and security of people who use TikTok is one of our top priorities.”

They added: “TikTok does not identify individuals or infer sensitive information such as sexual orientation or race based on what they watch.”

TikTok, owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, has also repeatedly faced criticism for its handling of user data. 

In March, CEO Shou Zi Che testified at a congressional hearing over concerns about the app’s data security and privacy practices and its alleged ties to the Chinese government.