Although TikTok has become one of the most downloaded social media apps, more than Facebook, Instagram, or even YouTube, most people over 35 have never heard of it.
Words like “Spy Platform” are spreading about the popular platform for several reasons, primarily due to misinformation.
This blog post will provide the facts as I know them and what we can deduce from the information available to us.
What Is TikTok?
Wikipedia describes TikTok as a social media platform for creating, sharing and discovering short music. lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos.
Essentially, once you create a TikTok account, you can upload a short 3 to 15-second video or 3 to 60-second looping video. Your account is by default public which means anyone on TikTok can watch your video just like on YouTube.
This sounds like fun, right? But there is more to the story and it starts with TikTok’s Origins.
History of TikTok
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. TikTok was first launched in September 2016. In November 2017, ByteDance purchased Musical.ly, a Shanghai-based company with a US-based office in California for approximately 1 billion dollars.
Musical.ly, an app to make homemade karaoke videos, targeted the US teen market. Although Musical.ly produced several stars, it never actually took off.
“Musers”, Musical.ly fans, ages ranged from 13 to 24.
ByteDance merged TikTok and Musical.ly in August 2018, but kept the TikTok Name.
Phenomenal Growth of TikTok
The significance of the merger of TikTok and Musicaly.ly is that it created a huge video community causing TikTok to become one of the fastest-growing apps.
This was not by chance. ByteDance determined that the fastest way to grow viral was to pursue celebrities and bring them on board. Celebrities such as Cardi B, Britney Spears and The Jonas Brothers are found TikTok. The Ellen DeGeneres show produces a segment called “TikTok Bell or No Bell Prize” piggybacking on the TikTok craze.
TikTok acquired 75 million new users in December 2019 alone and in 2019 TikTok was downloaded more than 750 million times.
Is TikTok Is Just Another Social Media Platform?
With the TikTok mobile app, users can create short videos of themselves with feature music in the background. The music can be sped up, slowed down or edited with a filter. You can easily record a 15-second video almost as easy as taking a picture with your phone!
TikTok is very similar to Facebook in that users can set their accounts to private and allow only friends to view the videos. Additionally, TikTok can analyze users’ preferences and show videos based on interests.
Features that you would expect from other social media platforms are found in TikTok.
Major National Security Concerns
With any social media platform, there are security issues. The popularity of the Chinese-owned TikTok app to so many people including armed service personnel has become a major issue. TikTok has the ability to capture your location, image, and biometric data.
ByteDance publicly states that TikTok data is stored on servers outside of China and the app is not available within China. The company will continue to separate the social media app from its other Chinese operations.
The fact that personal data of Americans could be easily transferred to China has caused the creation of several Data Protection Acts. As recent as December 2019, the United States Navy and Army have banned TikTok from government-issued devices. But that makes sense!
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined ByteDance 5.7 million dollars for illegally obtaining data from children under 13. Although the allegation was against Musical.ly, charges were brought after the merger and ByteDance agreed to pay the fine.
Despite the security concerns and legal issues, TikTok continues to be THE destination for mobile videos.
After much research, I personally have determined that there is no such thing as data privacy especially when it comes to social media. Data privacy and security ARE issues.
Data breaches will occur regardless of whether or not we are on social media. We all need to be more aware of what happens to our data.
I am ok with releasing my personal information to TikTok, but that is a decision that you have to make for yourself.
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