05-APR-2023 | Is TikTok a threat to our privacy? This is the question on the tip of many people’s tongues when discussing TikTok. Concerns have been raised about content and the influence it wields on young people, however the greatest issue lies in how TikTok protects users’ data.
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With over a billion active monthly users TikTok is fast becoming one of the most popular social media platforms.
Recently TikTok has been in the headlines again, as the US debates whether to ban it. TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance has long been accused of close links to the Chinese government. In 2020 the US investigated TikTok and found no evidence of the platform sharing any data with the Chinese government or acting on their behalf. However, there is some evidence of political censorship on content challenging the Chinese regime.
In response, TikTok has stated that it does not censor content based on political viewpoints, rather any censorship is based on compliance with local laws and regulations. TikTok also argues that it collects less data than platforms such as Facebook or Google since it doesn’t track user activity across devices.
The United States is not the only country reviewing their position on this application. In February 2021, the European Data Protection Board issued a statement expressing concerns over TikTok’s processing of user data, particularly with regard to targeted advertising and user profiling. However, these concerns have not yet resulted in any bans on TikTok in Europe.
Much of the recent media commentary around TikTok concerns focuses on issues relating to national security, but most users are unlikely to have nationally sensitive content on their phones. For individuals, the risk is not significantly different to that of other popular social media apps.
Will TikTok be banned? That is a good question when the data protection practices of Facebook, Google and other tech companies are also less than perfect. Holding TikTok accountable is surely a move in the right direction. However, if other platforms are not equally scrutinized, we will continue to wonder how safe our data really is.
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