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ByteDance’s educational app Gauth AI has seen a surge in popularity in recent months, climbing to the #2 spot in the Education category on both Apple and Google’s app stores. With over 10 million downloads on Android phones alone and claiming to have supported over 200 million students, Gauth offers AI assistance for school-aged children to complete their homework assignments. Owned by ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular app TikTok, Gauth’s success has raised concerns about Chinese ownership and the company’s ties to the Chinese government.

Unlike TikTok, Gauth focuses on education and uses generative AI to solve homework problems for users. By taking a photo of their assignment, such as math problems, users can receive instant help through the app. Gauth also offers a paid “Plus” version that connects students with tutors in various subjects, with the app boasting over fifty thousand experts available 24/7. Tutors are recruited from different countries, including the United States, India, the Philippines, and parts of Africa, and can earn up to $1500 per month.

In addition to homework help, Gauth features homework timers, study reminders, and entertainment options like a “Personal AI Study Buddy” and lofi beat soundtracks. The app also includes a points system for in-app purchases, which can be earned by watching ads or purchased with cash. Despite its focus on math and science, Gauth also offers a chatbot for questions about social sciences and the humanities, providing uncensored answers on various topics, including sensitive issues related to the Chinese government.

The rise of Gauth comes at a critical time for ByteDance, as lawmakers in the U.S. have raised concerns about the company’s ownership and potential ties to the Chinese government. The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that could force ByteDance to sell its stake in TikTok or face a ban in the U.S. due to fears of Chinese surveillance and influence through the app. However, Gauth maintains that it is powered by OpenAI technology through a Microsoft Azure license, distancing itself from potential Chinese government interference.

ByteDance’s interest in education apps is not new, with the company launching its education brand Dali in 2020 and expanding its offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a recent crackdown by the Chinese government on education apps led to layoffs at ByteDance, prompting the company to seek new ways to reenter the education market. Despite concerns about privacy and data sharing, some U.S. lawmakers, including Senator Ted Cruz, have praised ByteDance’s educational efforts while also expressing reservations about data privacy and sharing within the company.

As Gauth’s popularity grows, questions about data privacy and potential Chinese government access continue to linger. The app’s chatbot and user data are subject to access by a limited number of employees who need it for their jobs, according to ByteDance’s spokesperson. The app’s privacy policy states that user information may be shared with other entities within the corporate group, raising further concerns about data security and privacy. As ByteDance navigates the challenges of operating in the education sector, the company must address these privacy concerns to maintain user trust and continued success in the market.

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