Harrier reporter Kieran Corbet, who is studying social media at Harlow College, investigates the latest news regarding TikTok.
TIKTOKERS are being urged to delete the app over data privacy concerns. For a long time, people have been sceptical about the TikTok terms of service with people such as comedian Joe Rogan highlighting the privacy issues over a year ago.
He is not the only one and the government has now stepped in and is urging people to delete the app. When asked whether she recommended deleting TikTok, the chair of UK foreign affairs, Alicia Kearns, responded with “Yes, absolutely” And she claimed that users left their data exposed to hostile threats – specifically the Chinese government.
This all sparked from revelations that SparkByte (the company that owns TikTok) employees were using data to track western journalists and their sources of information.
Updates to the app’s privacy settings revealed that staff were allowed to access user data under ‘specific circumstances.’
“Everyone should be concerned about that” According to the UK Foreign Affairs Chair Alicia Kearns
TikTok is, of course, denying these claims saying that ‘TikTok is enjoyed by millions across the UK, and we want to be clear that they can trust us with their data’
It also claims to be taking steps such as storing all UK data in its data storage facilities in Ireland, reducing employee access to data and minimising data flows outside of Europe.
These things still do not convince me that TikTok is exactly trustworthy. So, I did some research into the topic.
What Data Does TikTok Collect?
According to the TikTok terms of service it can collect certain information about you and the device that you use to access the platform including:
Model of Device
App and File Names
Audio settings and device activity
Where you log in on multiple devices
Activity across devices
Activity on devices that TikTok is not installed on
Yes, that is right, your data is collected from devices that DO NOT HAVE TIKTOK INSTALLED.
So now we know that they most definitely collect an alarming amount of data, and that we are simply human drones harvested for our intellectual property, we must ask ourselves why.
Why Does TikTok Collect Data?
TikTok, along with other social media companies makes a portion of its revenue from selling user data to third party companies. Businesses also pay to run advertisements on their platform and to do so, TikTok needs lots of data to help the companies reach the right customer and in turn get a higher return on their ad spend meaning people are more likely to choose TikTok over other social media platforms for running advertisements as their money is better spent.
The company can also use data to target you with more entertaining and specific videos that you will enjoy more. This leads to you spending more time on the social media platform which allows them to collect more of your data which makes them more money.
This has been a huge part of why TikTok was so successful. By harvesting our data and then using it to target us with videos it knows we will enjoy, they are able to keep us engaged and entertained on their platform for much longer than other social media companies can.
The huge release of dopamine caused by the endless scrolling also causes a dopamine crash when you close the app. This is why coming off the app can be so difficult.
What does this mean for you?
All this data being collected can only mean one thing, your right to privacy is abolished. TikTok and its partners know everything that you do on your devices. Even the ones you do not use for TikTok.
This poses serious security risks for western governments as TikTok is known for working alongside the Chinese government and with all this information China have been able to infiltrate, spy on, and monitor the western world.
US politicians are prohibited from having TikTok installed due to concerns over major security breaches.
Talks of TikTok being banned are increasing across America and some schools and companies have already taken the initiative to ban their members from having TikTok installed on their devices.
The main concern for me is the audio device terms. TikTok can monitor audio devices that your account is associated with. For example, it can Listen to your private conversations even when you have your phone switched off.
I’m going to put that into perspective, imagine you have an Amazon Alexa that is connected to a mobile phone with TikTok installed. This means that TikTok can monitor what you say around the Alexa even when your phone is switched off. The same applies for all devices with microphones that are ‘associated’ with your TikTok account.
This has been common knowledge for some time now, so I have one big question.
Why are the governments suddenly so concerned? Could it relate to the Chinese ‘spy balloons’ that have recently been shot down? Or is that just a coincidence?