TikTok denies breach after hacker claims to have user data and source code

TikTok is reportedly testing an AI-powered chatbot called Tako

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The popular short video service TikTok, owned by ByteDance Ltd., is reportedly jumping on the artificial intelligence bandwagon and testing a new AI-powered chatbot.

First reported on by Bloomberg, the chatbot is named Tako and, in its current form, is described as an “experimental chatbot” that can answer questions and have conversations with users. The early version of Tako warns users that because responses are AI-generated, they may not be true and accurate and hence should not be relied upon as advice for medical, legal or financial information.

A spokesperson for TikTok confirmed that the service is testing Tako, saying it was trying “new ways to power search and discovery on TikTok” in select markets. “We’re always exploring new technologies that add value to our community,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to learning from our community as we continue to create a safe place that entertains, inspires creativity and drives culture.”

Although it’s unclear how widely the service is being tested, those with access to Tako can use the AI chatbot by tapping a small “ghost-like” icon on the top right of the app’s screen. Users are then taken to an instant messenger, where they can ask questions. Tako is also said to provide recommendations for content based on user’s interests and preferences.

Tako comes with a privacy disclosure, stating that any information is collected and shared with unnamed third-party service providers. Users can delete their data but are warned not to share any personal information.

It’s unknown whom the third-party service providers are. They could be anything from an advertiser to a third-party AI provider. It’s certainly possible that TikTok has tapped an existing AI company to provide some or all of the features of Tako.

That TikTok could be using a third-party AI provider for the service is not unusual. Still, most companies are not under the blazing spotlight of politicians determined to ban them based on allegations that the Chinese government accesses the data it gathers.

Over the last few months, lawmakers in the U.S., Europe and Canada have escalated efforts to restrict access to TikTok, with attempts to ban the app in the U.S. Congress. The first jurisdiction to ban the service was Montana on May 17. TikTok is suing the state over the ban, claiming that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws.

Image: Unsplash

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