There is no denying the impact the app TikTok has had on this generation with widespread popularity amongst teens and young adults with an estimated 200 million monthly users in the US alone. This social media video sharing app has basically taken the world by storm with features that unleash people’s creative outlet and have brought musicians such as Lil Nas X to fame, as he became popular this year after his song “Old Town Road” went viral on the app. TikTok has been described as addictive and could arguably be the most popular social media app with teenagers. But as fun and addictive as the app may seem, the question is “how safe is it”?
TikTok, if you remember, was originally named Musical.ly which allowed users to create short lip sync videos. Then on November 9th, 2017, ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company bought the app for $1 billion and merged Tik Tok and Musical.ly together creating one big video community. After Musical.ly had been bought, and changed its name to TikTok, the app seemed to transform from a platform that had been associated with cringy lip sync videos, to a platform where teenagers could truly express themselves. The change has been remarkable and this app has now been hailed the “new Vine,” another app that was loved by many but had an ultimate demise.
But with all this considered, TikTok might be a concern for US national security.
You may be wondering, “What!, how is a social media app that teens use a threat to national security?” Don’t worry, I was in the same boat as you. But the problem isn’t with the users, it’s with the parent company ByteDance, a company situated in China. An investigation done by Peterson Institute for International Economics in January of this year reveals issues with security and privacy of users. The app allows for user data and information to be collected without a user’s knowledge before it is sent to the company. In addition, ByteDance cannot refuse to share the data they have on users, with the Chinese government. All of this is perfectly legal because of the consent users give when agreeing to the terms and conditions. Therein lies the problem. China could at any point request data the company has on millions of users to do their bidding. And with the inference of Russia in our elections and data breaches occurring recently, who knows what China could do with this data?
However, there is a bigger issue at hand. It is very likely that TikTok may never expand its audience outside of teens and young adults but the widespread popularity of this Chinese app creates concern about the reach China may have on the Western world. TikTok might be a gateway to China’s influence on us, we don’t know for sure.
But does this mean I am telling you to delete the app in fear of the Chinese government taking over? No. Just be aware that this is what’s going on and make that judgement for yourself. Also read the terms and conditions, will ya?