Dangers associated with linking your TikTok and Twitter accounts
Rumors about social media platform TikTok being a spy tool for the Chinese intelligence agencies gained heavy momentum in 2020 when former United States of America president Donald Trump moved to shut down the company’s operations in America.
In his claims, the outspoken tycoon issued an Executive Order in August 2022 where among other orders, banned the downloading of the TikTok app on anymore American phones in use.
TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. and by 2020, had been downloaded over 175 million times in America.
Days later, Chinese publication, China Daily, reported that they had found no evidence to prove that TikTok posed any security risk to users following Donald Trump’s Executive Order which also stated that TikTok automatically captures its users’ internet activities across various websites including location data and browsing and search histories. This provided the basis for speculation that TikTok could provide user information to the Chinese intelligence as it collects and shares user data with third parties including advertisers.
While TikTok denied operating in China and providing the government with any user information, the permissions that TikTok requires of its users pose a real threat to their security and individuality.
Fast forward to February 2023, this writer set out to see why TikTok continues to be accused of being a spying tool.
This writer- with no TikTok account to her name- was directed to a viral TikTok link. I could watch and enjoy the video but upon attempting to read the comments below the video, the app requested for some permissions from me first.
The app asked me to log in to TikTok either via QR code, mobile number, email or user name. As I had no TikTok account, I clicked on the other options which involved accounts I had on other social media platforms. I had the options of continuing with my Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts. Upon clicking on continue with Google, TikTok asked me for my Google account password which I declined to provide.
I then clicked on continue with Twitter which brought up an array of alarming options that would allow TikTok to:
- See Tweets from my timeline (including protected Tweets) as well as my Lists and collections.
- See my Twitter profile information and account settings.
- See the accounts I follow, mute, and block.
- Follow and unfollow accounts for me.
- Update my profile and account settings.
- Post and delete Tweets for me, and engage with Tweets posted by others (Like, un-Like, or reply to a Tweet, Retweet, etc.) for me.
- Create, manage, and delete Lists and collections for me and
- Mute, block, and report accounts for me.
These permissions technically allow TikTok to run someone’s Twitter account as they pleased. If the app found that what a Twitter user had posted on their account did not align with what TikTok approves of, the tweet would simply be taken down without prior notice. This aligns with a TikTok official who refused to confirm or deny whether they censored content online in favor of the Chinese ruling party.
The overall danger is that TikTok may share content on your Twitter account that does not align with what you stand for as an individual and may expose you to security risks by having unchecked access to your profile information and account settings.