TikTok, the social media platform that has captured the world’s attention since its inception in 2016, has come under scrutiny regarding a possible violation of privacy. The app is owned by the Chinese-based company called ByteDance and is available in 40 languages today. Within its first year, TikTok had over a million users. As of February 2021, it boasts over 1.1 billion users. Our current world population is around 7.7 billion.
The essence of the content is a variety of short-form videos. These range in content types from cooking and comedy to travel and education. These short videos are then uploaded to the platform and can be viewed by other users hailing from any corner of the world.
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Why People are Worried
The primary privacy concerns surrounding TikTok are that of data mining and national security. Ultimately, these anxieties are part of an overarching US-led resistance to Chinese technology. India has already imposed a blanket ban on the popular app and Australia as well as the US threaten to follow suit.
As goes for virtually any social media platform, TikTok is able to collect data about every individual using the app. What is particularly frightening is that this extends to everyone above the age of 13. Therefore, TikTok can access around 50 different types of information on every one of the hundreds of millions of children that have been sucked into the orbit of the highly addictive platform.
When it comes to national security, it is primarily the USA that fears China has access to and is exploiting this information bank. While TikTok vehemently denies such accusations, there is a growing suspicion of an underlying scheme to manipulate the user population. There is, of course, a striking hypocrisy at the heart of these anxieties. The rise of TikTok and the ways in which it capitalises on user information in exchange for the free use of the app is in no way different to the Facebook model.
So, What’s the Verdict?
The general consensus is that TikTok poses no serious threat to the average user and is as fun to use as Grand Rush promotional games. That being said, depending on your personal philosophies it may not be a question of threat as much as it is one of privacy. Experts maintain that this technology is not actually very different to any other social media platform.
It leads us to conclude that social media and data privacy cannot coexists within our current networks. This might tempt us to criticise the participants rather than the hosts. If you want to circumvent the privacy risks of using TikTok, you will need to delete Facebook and Instagram too.
If, however, you do not work for the military and are simply seeking some light entertainment and online connections, you should not worry. The average joe really has little to lose if their name, age, and nationality makes its way into the digital archive. It would take a lot to go through life without an online trace – a bit of common sense and balance goes a long way.