• Devyn Wong

TikTok - END OF A DECADE

TikTok captured our attention and screen time for the last few years of the 2010s. As with many apps, TikTok's press coverage hasn't been completely positive. So what has all of the press coverage been about? Devyn Wong takes you through the issues of data usage and censorship.

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Two years after the popular app musical.ly faded out, its owner ByteDance created a new and improved short video app: TikTok. TikTok, originally mostly downloaded by teens ironically after several Youtube commentary videos ridiculed the app’s content, took over the internet around summertime this year. Teens became obsessed with watching and making TikToks because they are often funny, relatable and entertaining to make. Recently, Holton students have been seeing Maryland themed TikToks on their “for you page,” and it has raised a question: Is TikTok stalking me? Well, yes. Kind of.

A New York Times article posted on November 2, 2019 confirms that Tik Tok is “under national security review.” Lawmakers are worried about TikTok’s tremendous impact on Americans and how TikTok regulates content posted on the app. TikTok has been proven by the Guardian to censor videos that talk about politics, more specifically the protests in Hong Kong (though TikTok denies these claims). Because TikTok is a Chinese company, lawmakers fear TikTok is not supportive of Americans’ rights and values of freedom of speech and additionally worry that TikTok is sending user data to China through the app. As the investigation continues to unfold, people are becoming more and more cautious about the content they post in fear of ByteDance using their personal information. TikTok has denied the use or sale of any personal data such as name or location; however, lawmakers possess doubts. It should be noted that TikTok does track user data in a complex algorithm to feed users videos based on that input, while that use of data is in the terms of service, the concern lies with your data being transferred into a larger database without consent.

Although TikTok isn’t specifically stalking you or your location, the company could possibly be collecting U.S. demographic data. And the more TikTok grows, the more content the company watches in order to censor or block inappropriate videos, or political ideas that people in power at TikTok don't want to be seen.

Sources and Recommended Reading:

https://www.internetmatters.org/hub/esafety-news/tik-tok-app-safety-what-parents-need-to-know

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/01/technology/tiktok-national-security-review.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/12/09/tiktok-leader-postpones-trip-washington-meet-with-members-congress/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/tiktok-and-the-long-arm-of-the-chinese-government/2019/12/02/1064a72c-1142-11ea-b0fc-62cc38411ebb_story.html

https://www.lawfareblog.com/reflections-tiktok-and-data-privacy-national-security