Is TikTok safe? Here’s what users should know

By Daniella Molina

The popular social media app TikTok was rated one of the top apps of 2020. It averaged an 88% positive review feedback and over one billion downloads. 

However, the app is not as safe as its claims and matter of fact, it was not designed to be. 

In a Tweet by Hacker group Anonymous, the group claims that TikTok was primarily developed as spyware for the Chinese government. 

The Tiktok app first became available to the U.S in 2016. At first it seemed like knock off the Vine application which had a series of short videos about trending dances, DIY and life hacks. 

Anything a person can think of there seems to be a “side of TikTok” for. 

The application has billions of, videos to share, download and duet with, all at no cost to the user. There is no cost that involves actual currency, but the expense is the user’s privacy. 

Exactly how much and what is done with the information occurring from each user is still in question and has also caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission.  

The app is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance based in Beijing. Many wonder just how much the Chinese government is involved. 

In the Chinese political system, the government has a wide and massive influence in the business. 

This means that the Chinese government could and most likely will collect data from users on a global level. 

 In recent changes to TikTok’s privacy policy, various governments have access to user data.  No one ever reads the fine print or privacy user agreement. 

It’s a long and lengthy read, but briefly here is what users agree to in exchange for using the Tik Tok app: 

Any information you add to your profile, like age, language, phone number, photo, and email address. 

Any information it can gain from third-party accounts (like Facebook or Google) you link to your TikTok account Any content you upload, like photos and videos, information it can find about you from other “publicly available sources.”

 Information about what you searched for on TikTok, Information about your phone, including your IP address, your mobile carrier, time zone, and app and file names found on your phone.

Keystroke patterns or rhythms, location data, messages you send and receive from other users. 

Your profile may be private, but your information is not. This means, even if you do not post or share videos on the app, your information is still being collected and stored. 

Patterns of consistency on the application, what you search for, who you interact with and how long you are using the app  is all being recorded. 

Looking up recipes, life hacks and or how to get bubble gum out of one’s hair seems innocent enough. 

TikTok also collects data of underage and teenage users, while providing plenty of inappropriate content to those said users. 

The real cause for alarm are those who are specially looking up content to engage with such a vulnerable audience.  

The United States views TikTok policies and access as a military threat. Through the app military locations, and military insight was available to anyone. 

In December 2019, U.S. military personnel were no longer allowed to use TikTok, as the app was considered a ‘cyber threat.’ The Chinese government is not the only one collecting data. 

Western governments are also trying to gain insight but since the U.S. is a constitutional state, there are several laws in place that limit government access. 

The Western world has countless independent privacy watchdogs, while in China, there is no such thing or laws that would keep the Chinese Government’s eyes out of the equation.  

Once TikTok has your information, the company uses it to know what type of TikTok videos show up in your feed and learn how to target you with ads. 

So, if you ever feel like you were just thinking about something, it magically appears on your feed. Trust it is not magic at all. It is TikTok doing what TikTok does.  

Tik Tok also shares your information with third parties and uses scan analyses of your photos and phone screens. 

According to its privacy policy, to identify “the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content.” 

If TikTok doesn’t like what it sees, it will purposely lower the view accessibility of users who are deemed as ugly, overweight, disabled, or unattractive according to TikTok policy. 

User beware, your information is out there. Some ways to combat Tik Tok is to go to user settings and opt out, unlink third party accounts, limit use of what you share or delete the app all together.  

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