Turkey to investigate TikTok for privacy breach

Turkey’s Personal Data Protection Authority (KVKK) has opened an investigation on the popular social media platform TikTok, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Thursday.

TikTok, owned by a Chinese internet company, came under scrutiny after reports came out on Turkish media about possible security breaches in the TikTok app, based on a Reddit user’s detailing of its issues.

Popular Turkish newspaper Milliyet, owned by the pro-government Demirören Holding, called TikTok “the Chinese spy in the pocket” on its front page on Wednesday.

Concerns over privacy breaches by the platform have been voiced before, including by Reddit CEO Steve Huffman who called it “spyware” in February.

The new allegations coincided with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Wednesday announcement of a new crackdown on social media, and his government’s plans to propose a new bill to effectively end anonymity online.

If the bill passes into law, social media giants like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram will be required to comply with the Turkish government’s requests for personal data.

More than 18,000 Turkish citizens faced investigations over social media posts in 2018, according to an Interior Ministry report, while Twitter recently announced an information operation by the Turkish government as it suspended more than 7,000 accounts.

One social media user was arrested and at least 11 others were detained over social media posts this week, over their comments on the birth of Erdoğan’s grandson.

As it currently stands, Twitter rejects most requests by Turkish authorities, but informers help fill in the gaps to identify users who have anonymous accounts.