Is Tik Tok A Threat To Online Privacy And Security?
Prominent Americans have voiced reservations about the social media platform TikTok. Former President Trump tried to ban it. President Biden expressed concern when he was a candidate. Several major companies directed employees not to use it.
TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, has around a billion users worldwide, and they create and share short-form videos on the app. Many users and children and teens. Are the privacy and security concerns around TikTok justified?
Users who sign up for TikTok, or any similar app, create social media footprints. They expose the information they sign up with plus anything they add as they use the app. Social media apps are useful for keeping track of friends, following other users and sharing information and opinions. They also contribute to how privacy vanishes online.
TikTok collects information such as username, age, gender, email address, type of mobile device and information about your messages and online activities. This information is shared with advertisers, marketers and vendors who collect, analyze and resell demographic information. To fully use the app, users agree to let it access their location, camera and contact list.
You can make some of this information private, but there’s still a chance it could become public through a data breach. What is data breach? It’s any event that exposes confidential data. It can happen through a hack, a compromised password or other accidental or deliberate means. Information you thought was private could become known and even available for sale.
There are social media privacy laws, but they’re limited in their ability to protect you. They mostly concern financial and medical records, and they don’t do much to thwart bad guys. Social media has moved forward too fast for them to keep up.
When it comes to collecting and reselling user data, TikTok doesn’t do anything that Facebook, Instagram and the others don’t do. Why then the concern?
The main reason seems to be that TikTok’s parent is based in China. Some politicians think China could use TikTok to spy on the US. Another is that TikTok, more than other social media apps, appeals to a teen audience. There’s concern that these users will be less sophisticated about protecting themselves.
There are a few practices you can adopt to reduce your privacy exposure.
- Don’t give out your surname or your age.
- Don’t show landmarks such as street signs and schools in your posts.
- Set your account to “private” in the settings menu so only those you approve can follow you.
Sure, there are risks any time you provide personal information. However, there’s no reason to be more concerned about TikTok privacy and security than about Facebook, Twitter or any other social media app. Enjoy them, but be cautious.