Does the TikTok Investigation Reveal Data Security Vulnerabilities for Your Nonprofit?

Just last month, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce spent hours grilling Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok. The widely watched hearings featured accusations that Chew’s super-popular social media app is being used to secretly mine data from its more than 150 million users by the Chinese Communist Party.

According to CBS News, Shou denied that TikTok was being used to spy on Americans on behalf of the Chinese government. However, he later admitted “it had collected location data on U.S. users in past, and said some historical data is still stored in servers that could be accessed by engineers from ByteDance, its parent company based on China.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time the public has had to deal with purported personal data breaches and illegal data mining committed by—or through—private companies. Perhaps one of the most infamous examples concerns the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018. If you haven’t seen the excellent Netflix documentary The Great Hack, here are the broad strokes. The controversy involved illegal harvesting of data from Facebook users without their consent for political advertising purposes. The incident affected up to 87 million users worldwide, resulting in a $5 billion fine for Facebook by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

2019 saw more related problems. For instance, a hacker gained access to the personal information of more than 100 million customers and credit applicants in Capital One’s database, making off with sensitive personal information. This included names, addresses, credit scores, and most damaging of all, social security numbers. The company later agreed to pay an $80 million fine as well as implement a comprehensive security program to settle the matter.

More recently, in April 2020, the New York Times reported that the popular video conferencing site Zoom was secretly matching and collecting data from users’ LinkedIn profiles every time they logged into a meeting. Also, even the Houston Astros baseball team was accused in 2020 of using advanced analytics to illegally steal pitch signs from catchers to hitters so as to anticipate what was coming; the team’s general manager and manager were both fired as a result of the scandal.

To be fair, data mining isn’t necessarily illegal or even unethical. In fact, many major online retailers, including, built their entire business models around it, leveraging information gained from purchases to determine user preferences, anticipate needs, and direct customers to other products their buying patterns predict they might like.

Discerning behavioral patterns to predict customer preference is also how streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu not only point you to “Other Series You May Like,” but also help to determine the kinds of content and programs they produce in-house or buy from other sources. (That you agree to being monitored is part of most of the unreadably thick “Terms of Service” agreements you accept when you sign up for these services or a social media app. Likewise, you similarly agree to being tracked each and every time you accept a “cookie” from a website.)

However, the real trouble starts when companies go beyond purchasing patterns and start digging into personal information like your address, phone number, email addresses, political party affiliation, and credit scores, either using the information themselves or selling it to third parties for their own monetization purposes. Worse yet is when hackers exploit vulnerabilities in these companies’ security software to snatch information like social security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, and even passwords. All this contributes to complex identify theft schemes meant to steal money or other valuable info from unaware individuals.

At DonorSearch, we’re quite aware of the many dangers that hackers pose. As a result, we take data security very seriously. Being a U.S. company, we have no ties to foreign interests, and we provide optimum levels of security to our users. Because so many of our clients send us terabytes of data for the DSAi (Data Science and Artificial Intelligence) powering our service, it is critical they feel secure in the solutions we provide.

Knowing the value of data mining, especially for philanthropic purposes, we employ state-of-the-art technology in the service of our clients. To this end, DonorSearch Aristotle is an application enabling non-profit organizations to identify potential donors by analyzing behavior along a number of axes. By pairing messages with each recipient’s individual sympathies/loyalties, DonorSearch makes acquiring donations far more efficient, effective, and cost-effective.

Specifically, DonorSearch can help nonprofits such as yours:

  • Identify donors possessing a capacity to give and who have an affinity for your cause.
  • Expand your prospect list with our philanthropy-focused prospect search database.
  • Predict a prospect’s giving capacity with accurate, secure giving intelligence data.

To find out more about how you can better reach out to donors eager to hear your message while also protecting your proprietorial data, please contact our team of experts to arrange a demo of DonorSearch Ai today.

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