Is TikTok a threat to your privacy?

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-sharing app designed for sharing short clips online. It’s one of the more recent additions to the already congested social media market, having launched in 2016, but it has seen meteoric growth since then. The service now boasts more than a billion users, and its popularity shows no signs of abating.

The app’s functionality includes the ability to watch videos from other accounts and upload original videos for others to watch. TikTok’s algorithms decide, for the most part, what consumers see.

Is TikTok safe?

While the ordinary TikTok user shouldn’t have to worry too much about being hacked or falling victim to a phishing scheme, the app does have some privacy and security issues.

TikTok has a number of challenges that its competitors do not, including the possibility of meddling from the Chinese government, which is concerned about the platform’s popularity in the country. In the next sections, we’ll go into greater depth on each of these points.

The TikTok algorithm

While the ordinary TikTok user shouldn’t have to worry too much about being hacked or falling victim to a phishing scheme, the app does have some privacy and security issues.

Although many of its rivals TikTok’s For You Page is its hallmark and main selling point (FYP). This is what distinguishes it from competing platforms, but many of them have begun to adopt similar features.

In the FYP, you will find a never-ending stream of videos chosen specifically for you by an algorithm. This may not always be content from channels you’ve chosen to subscribe to. Instead, an algorithm that takes into account your preferences chooses the items to include in the FYP.

Infamously, the FYP is able to cater to each user’s unique preferences and interests. The algorithm is quite accurate at determining what types of videos are most likely to keep a user engaged within the app.

While the algorithm may improve certain aspects of the user experience, it also adds to the first significant issue we need to address: privacy.

Having its own concerns over privacy on social media, TikTok has certain distinct threats, such as possible censorship by the Chinese government. In the next sections, we’ll go into greater depth on each of these points.

A data-driven algorithm

The fact that TikTok stores so much user information is probably the biggest red flag. The algorithm’s efficacy stems from its ability to track user actions and tailor that data to improve the quality of the user’s personal FYP.

The moment you download and install TikTok, the firm starts compiling a detailed profile about you, including your likes, dislikes, political leanings, and any other information that could influence the videos you are shown. People may have two key concerns with this type of profiling.

Firstly, this is a problem of basic principles. Should a business be allowed to pry into your private affairs? Are you okay with TikTok determining your sexual orientation, political leanings, and even health conditions (often with startling accuracy)?

The second issue is one of more immediate concern. It just takes one data breach for a company with a lot of users to have their personal information compromised. There is no guarantee that the social media behemoths can genuinely keep your private details safe from the prying eyes of hackers, who are eager to steal valuable data from online businesses.

TikTok’s In-App Browser

Within TikTok, users may access the internet using the app’s integrated web browser. If a user clicks on an external link in an ad or their bio, they will be kept within the app rather than taken outside. They use TikTok’s built-in browser rather than going to Chrome or Safari.

By using an internal browser, TikTok is able to spy on user activity even when they visit seemingly unrelated websites. While this kind of monitoring does not violate any privacy agreements, and other applications, like Instagram, use comparable systems, it’s another way that users could accidentally provide more personal information than they intend.

Is TikTok safe for kids?

TikTok is not appropriate for users under the age of 13, so don’t let your little ones download it. Teenagers’ access to TikTok should be restricted by their parents for a number of reasons.

To begin with, users of all ages may be exposed to sexually explicit content that was not initially sought out by the TikTok algorithm. In contrast to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the FYP on TikTok constantly features new videos from producers the user has never heard of before. Because of this, it’s not easy to ensure that children will only view suitable material for their age.

The app’s direct message feature also allows strangers to make contact with teens. Each new profile is generated with the default visibility setting of “public.” A user’s inbox will be open to all comers. To that end, make sure that children’s profiles are set to private.

Make use of TikTok’s Family Pairing function, which enables parents to connect their account with their child’s for increased oversight, to make the app a safer environment for everyone.

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