FRANKFORT, Ky. — If you’re online and using practically any social media site, those sites are already collecting data on you.
“I’m going to go ahead and go out on a limb that most people have not read the privacy policies for Facebook or TikTok,” University of Louisville computer science professor Adrian Lauf said. “I’m also going to go out and unashamedly say I haven’t either.”
Lauf said data is typically used for targeted advertising: sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube and TikTok can track what you like and then serve you ads based on those likes.
“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product,” he said.
The data they collect can include some pretty personal information like your facial features or your voice — things known as biometric information — leading to some privacy concerns.
“The data collection and the productization of people on a social media platform is already so prevalent that clawing that back is really hard,” Lauf said.
A few state lawmakers have pre-filed a bill for next year’s legislative session to limit how social media companies can collect biometric information. BR 172 requires any company to seek written permission from a user before collecting biometric data, and companies can be sued if they collect the data anyways.
Rep. Josh Bray (R-Mount Vernon) said a change to TikTok’s data collection policy in June which allows them to collect biometric data prompted the new proposal.
“It is very concerning that social media platforms and other private entities are collecting biometric data without consent,” Bray said. “TikTok is using personal information and biometrics to target content, features, and effects to their users. The app is attracting children to the platform and collecting their private data. This leaves the children vulnerable and exploited.”
Lauf said social media is designed to be addictive, especially to young, developing minds.
“That is a very big concern, and since children don’t necessarily know to withhold information, they may provide information that shouldn’t be shared and that could follow them the rest of their lives,” he said.
As a parent, Lauf said he’s careful about whats apps his kids use.
“My children are young so they don’t understand security and privacy concerns yet,” he said. “But that is something that I will be teaching them in an ongoing manner until they 100% understand it and appreciate it.”
He said it’s not likely any biometric information could make its way to a third party, but if you are worried about it, just be careful about what apps you use.
Five other states — Illinois, Texas, New York, California, and Washington — have already passed biometric privacy laws.