Are you a star on TikTok?
Or Do you just scroll its feed to watch your favorite content?
In either case, this article can help you understand why Tiktok is a threat to its users? or the reasons that bring the app to the headlines for its controversial nature. Let’s get into it.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video-sharing app that helps users to create any content and get noticed all over the world. Usually, TikTok asks the new user to provide some personal data for the purpose of identification. And further asks for multiple permissions to access user’s data. Such permissions include access to users’ location, camera, clipboard, etc. to optimize the user’s experience within the app.
The app is supposed to be a fun app for youngsters but TikTok is becoming a threat for nations. As young people can sing, dance, prank, act, or perform any art and craft in their video content to catch the attention of other users. In this way, they can increase their followers on the app in millions, and monetize on their video content. Also, companies love to approach them and hire them for the promotion of their products.
All this sounds really beneficial. So where does the problem come in with TikTok? and why TikTok has become a threat?
Why TikTok is so Controversial and Threatening?
The problem is with the Extensive collection of the User’s data and its use without the consent of the user. Researches have revealed that Tiktok collects user’s private data more than its needs. This fact raises concerns for user’s data privacy. Along with that, extra collection of data allows the app owners to conduct the illegal sale of data and excessive data mining.
Most importantly, the app is alleged to violate the privacy of kids and teens in the US. Moreover, US authorities have accused the app of Intellectual Property Theft of local confidential information. US President Trump since 2018, has been campaigning against ‘TikTok’ and termed it as a National Security threat to the US.
Along with these concerns, TikTok controversies have unleashed a new debate of “Content’s Morality and Immorality”. Pakistan has raised this issue and banned the app for not checking the obscenity on the platform.
Although, most of these concerns are also valid for other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc., yet TikTok is in limelight. Due to the tug-war-like relations between the US and China, TikTok seems to be an unjustified target of US authorities. As America has punished China by containing many of its profitable organizations including Huawei and TikTok.
So, there is a tinge of American bias in controversies related to China.
Concern # 1 Extensive Collection of User’s data
TikTok acquires some personal information from the user after the first download of the app. This information includes some traditional identity-based information and asks a user to watch videos.
The algorithm of TikTok decides what sort of content does the user likes or dislikes. This decision is taken on the basis of multiple factors. These factors include the watch time of a video that the user watches. The type of content the user likes to watch and dislikes or avoids. Other factors include favorable color schemes of videos, the flow of watched videos, and other watch patterns. And this extensive collection of user data helps TikTok to provide a more entertaining environment to the user.
Concern # 2 Data Privacy
Tiktok asks the user to allow a set of permissions such as access to the microphone, camera, locations, and clipboard, etc. All these permissions allow app authorities to get the metadata of these utilities. Such data can be used to interfere with the user’s online privacy.
This is how the data privacy of the user can be threatened. For instance, getting access to the user’s clipboard allows the app to view user’s passwords, and other private information involving bank account information.
Experts believe that such permissions risk the security of user’s personal information. Moreover, it allows app authorities to use this data for their own motives.
Concern # 3 Risk of Illegal sale of Data
Social Media platforms earn through the sale of user’s data, which is legal to some extent. Basically, these social media apps like TikTok monetize users’ information by selling their data to third parties. These third parties include various brands who buy this data to reach out to their potential customers.
This process of reaching out to customers is called ‘Data Mining’. The companies hire Data engineers to recognize patterns of people’s likes and dislikes out of this data. And after mining this data, companies try to steal your attention by showing you the kind of ads that you may like or you have ever liked.
Nike would begin to show you its ads only if you watch any shoe-based content.
Though TikTok promised not to sell this data to any third parties. yet it is feared that TikTok has the authority to sell user’s private data to entities which may risk their security.
Concern # 4 Violations of Kids and Teens’ privacy
Another app owned by TikTok called Musical.ly had illegally collected private data of kids under 13 without their parent’s consent. TikTok also admitted to the fact. Therefore in 2019, TikTok paid a heavy amount of fine for these violations. The fine was 5.7 million dollars for violating the Children Online Privacy Protection Act of the US.
The evidence shows that a major portion of TikTok’s demographics is teens and youngsters. And the improper collection of user’s data within TikTok raises issues with teens’ privacy. However, educating ethics to kids in their teens can solve the problem. while keeping a special focus on teaching online ethical values.
Concern # 5 Intellectual Property Theft and National Insecurity
US authorities, media outlets, and research experts have alleged that TikTok is transporting the personal data of US nationals, all the way back to China. And the common perception is that China is stealing the confidential information of the US that is sensitive to US National security. This created panic among US lawmakers as this analysis over The Washington Post presents.
According to Chinese laws, Chinese tech companies have to provide the data to the ruling Communist Party when it demands. This fact also increases American fears regarding Chinese tech Platforms. Therefore, western media continuously suspects the practices of Chinese-owned app.
The American higher officials fear that Chinese authorities can misuse the private data of US nationals. For instance, the data can be used to blackmail US federal officials and track their locations through the app’s data-driven environment. In times of war, tracking their locations will cause a security threat to the US.
President Trump went one step further and announced a ban on TikTok if does not sell 30% of the company’s share to Microsoft.
Well, it is still not proved if TikTok has ever committed such an act of stealing US data. But during this period of tense relations between both nations, the US is highly critical of every Chinese platform.
The debate over Morality of Content
There is another debate unfolded on the table regarding the content being created on TikTok. Pakistan in July 2020 had banned the app for being unable to control the immoral content on the app and asked the app authorities to comply with the community guidelines proposed by the country. The ban is lifted in 2021 upon strict conditions and recommendations.
This debate has further allowed App owners to invade into user’s privacy and acquire major rights of banning any content that it deems immoral/ indecent. There is a need to set standards of moral content and immoral ones. So, people can freely depict their legit ideas such as calls for self-determination, anti-racism, gender equality, etc. without the fear of being banned by authorities.
I hope that you understand why TikTok is a threat?, For whom it is a threat? and what concerns should you have while using Tiktok? Above are my Top 5 concerns with TikTok, let me know Your variety of concerns in comments don below