First it was Russia and now it is China. In the middle of last year, the Russian application FaceApp went viral due to its aging filters and vague privacy policies that raised the concern of experts who questioned the fate of its users’ personal data. Today history repeats itself with TikTok, a Chinese video app that is popular with young people, even minors, and which already has 1.5 billion downloads in the world.
TikTok allows you to create 15 to 60 second music-related videos, some include lip sync, comedy routines, or novel editing tricks.It emerged when the Chinese company Bytedance bought Musical.ly in 2017, owned by another company from the same Asian country, and merged both platforms.
The facility to publish videos and viralize them attracted 500 million active users until the end of last year, most of the young followers are between 12 (the minimum age established to use the app) and 20 years old. User posts are viewed by followers and non-followers, so accounts are public, although there is also the possibility to restrict content to a personalized contact list.
For the USA, TikToK doesn’t seem so funny
Did you know that the Chinese government requires your country’s social media applications to provide you with access to user information? Although it seems exaggerated and even a clear violation of the freedom of any citizen, this is the case in the Asian country. And it is precisely this fact that worries the authorities and experts of the United States, so much so that since 2018 they have worked to demonstrate how TikTok not only violates the privacy of its users, but the security of their country.
“It’s fashionable to pretend that concerns about Chinese tech dominance are just a smokescreen for US executives, but if you really care about privacy, security, and content restraint then you should pay attention to TikTok “Alex Stamos, a former Facebook security chief and current professor at Stanford University, wrote on Twitter.
Regarding these indications, the company ByteDance ensures that the data of users from other countries are stored separately and are not shared with the Chinese authorities. However, in addition to authorities and experts, US citizens also spoke out against the Chinese app.
In November last year, a class action lawsuit was filed in California federal court against the company for illegally and secretly collecting large amounts of personal data from users such as phone and social media contacts, email addresses, IP address, location and other information, to be later sent to China.
The document also mentions that Byte Dance collects non-public content such as video drafts and that its privacy policies are ambiguous. Thus, the plaintiffs ensure that the information collected through TikTok could be used to identify, profile and track users; In addition, the Chinese company would benefit from this alleged activity by using the data for targeted ads.
What could happen to TikTok?
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (Cifius) has the power to get rid of foreign acquisitions of American companies if it finds that there is a threat to national security. And the fate of TikTok could go in this direction, as was the case with Grindr, a gay dating app.
Cifius has forced Kulun, the company that owns the dating app, to sell the platform in 2020, ruling that Grindr had too much personal information about American soldiers.
Similarly, the committee is investigating the acquisition of Musical.ly on the basis that the company had a corporate office in California, even though it was headquartered in Shanghai. Therefore, if Bytedance does not present sufficient evidence that it is not a threat to the US, TikTok could suffer a fate similar to Grindr.
TikTok in Mexico
According to Arturo Martínez, CEO of TikTok in Mexico, the majority of Mexican users belong to the centennial generation (born in the late 1990s and early 2000s), so the division in our country seeks to be a space for fun, art and culture that also extends to adults.
Now you know how this Chinese app works and the implications that it could have according to the experts, it will be up to you if you download it and publish content. Remember to carefully read the privacy policies and terms of service, if you agree with that and with what you have read today, using TikTok will be at your own risk.
Source: BBC, CNET, El País