TikTok, as you may have come to know, has had many problems and allegations to talk upon, act upon, and also to be feared by. In the upcoming sections, we shall see how the social media app came into being, what content does it support, and the elephant in the room: Is TikTok Safe?
TikTok - A Brief History
Before TikTok, the app was widely known as Musical.ly and was headquartered in Shanghai which was however taken over by the company named ByteDance a Chinese company excelling in the fields of computing and artificial intelligence. The shift from the famous musical.ly to TikTok was done in 2018 when the company was taken over by the ByteDance and officially renamed to make what we have today TikTok.
Content on the Platform - Is TikTok Safe?
The content on the platform also remains in the question of making the application more volatile and close to getting it banned. When the applications were formerly known as musical.ly to the very present the content hasn’t changed in the application. The application gained its fame due to its easy make and upload content which mainly included the likes of vines, lipsync, dance, and dubsmash.
The content was mainly timed at 15 seconds which meant that none of the videos can go beyond the mark of 15 seconds and made the content consumption faster and much easier on this platform. Since we have now discussed how TikTok has come to being and what content is promoted by TikTok let's come to the main problem with the application and see whether the application is safe to use or not.
What’s Wrong with TikTok?
When talking about safety measures many countries have a very rigorous system of online privacy and safety of its citizens, however, TikTok has been found to violate these rules and guidelines many times and we had to think that Is TikTok Safe? So there are not single but multiple layered problems with it that may have an impact from Psychological problems to data privacy issues. Let’s look at these problems one by one:
Content on the platform increases the chances of ADHD
Many psychologists all around the world have stated that applications like TikTok may generate problems of ADHD or in other words Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, this condition is commonly supported by a lack of attention and hyperactive behaviors in the patient. Now the question arises as to how can TikTok be the cause of such a mental disorder to understand that we have to know how this disorder affects us and makes us think - Is TikTok Safe?
ADHD is commonly referred to as the problem with the lack of attention in human beings more common in children than compared to adults, however, if the problem is not treated may lead to serious problems in the future.
Since TikTok is a very fast medium to consume the media and also the content on this platform is limited to the 1minute at the maximum hence more and more content and media consumption promotes the brain for the mode where longer and slower processes of daily life become harder to focus on. If these types of problems tend to be seen in an earlier stage of children may lead to poor academic and mental performance.
No Hard Rules and Guidelines for Content Creators
Since the type of content being created and promoted on a platform is important for its portfolio and marketing, many big social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and even Youtube for the matter have very specific and strict guidelines published for its creators. It has been noticed that news of accounts being banned by networks like Twitch and Youtube are very common, but the situation is completely reversed for the matters of TikTok.
TikTok lacks strict guidelines that lead the creators of this application to produce some questionable content, these have been reported as pornographic, misogynistic, and homophobic content. Since its release, it has been on and off guard of the governments of many countries like India, the USA, and Indonesia.
It has also faced a temporary ban in India and Indonesia due to its promotion of pornographic and adulterated content. However, these bans were revoked when the company promised to bring reforms and changes to censor the content which has not been seen to be done yet.
In recent times the application is the verge to get banned again in India as many complaints and allegations are being made for the application for promoting domestic violence, gender inequality, racism, and animal cruelty. Many videos have surfaced with animals being tortured and women being bitten up on the camera. Thus the continuation of the application in India is under uncertainty.
And after being proved that the content of the application is questionable and inappropriate for the younger audience the application may seek the ban again. Now we have covered how the application is affecting both the creator and the audience in a psychological way. We now move on to a more important part of it: the digital privacy-related issues with the application.
How does TikTok know your Location?
TikTok being a video consumption platform more highly requires to provide you with the relevant content and hence requires your location access, but to a surprise, you will find that the application does not prompt for location permission on your phone. If you do dare you can try this out yourself, however, the question comes how the application is getting the location of your device for that matter we have the question answered.
In a video going viral online by Abhi and Niyu, we have come across the point where we see that switching off the GPS and even using a VPN a virtual private network doesn’t stop TikTok from showing the content from the area you are in. When looked into the matter we have come across the point where we have seen that the application takes the location from the data of your sim card.
Now we must ask how this is a problem since the application is using your sim card as the bacon to know your location it becomes quite a problem since it may have the point in taking more important information from your mobile phones. It may tap into messages and get more information about your bank accounts and other social media platforms if they are connected with your number. Now since we know how they can manipulate the information on the mobile using your sim card lets see how it can be a problem as it's a Chinese company and makes us question - Is TikTok Safe?
Being a Chinese company and answerable to the Chinese Government
TikTok is a Chinese app and is controlled by the Chinese market which makes it more vulnerable to the digital privacy factor. Now the question arises as to how being from China makes such a great impact on the digital privacy of the application and Is TikTok Safe?
The answer is that being a Chinese company Titok is obligated to provide any or all the data that it has, thus making it a very dangerous scenario for other countries. According to these rules and circumstances, the American government has come to a discussion on banning the application completely in their country.
To avoid such problems the Indian and American government has given strict instructions of not installing TikTok on any of the official government phones provided to them. Apart from this Indian government has also provided a list of other applications that must not be downloaded in the official phones.
Feeding the Chinese AI
China has always been one of the big players in the field of computers and hence has been at the point of questioning by other countries also many times. China now wants to become the leader in Artificial Intelligence and gain the upper hand above other countries.
Since ByteDance is a company solely focused on Artificial Intelligence it is thus very obvious that it plays a key role in the development of Chinese AI and thus also raises the concern that we are providing the complete information about our daily habits and interest directly to the application and in turn to the Chinese government.
Data Keeping of TikTok
TikTok can legally keep any data of your account as long as they wish without any concern and also they have the right to manipulate the social media info and also track your activity on any social media application connected to your TikTok account. These also make TikTok a more dangerous application in regards to your data privacy and make the question easier to answer - Is TikTok Safe?
How to protect your Data from these apps?
Since TikTok has been known to use your sim card and gave some clues to the question - Is TikTok Safe? We can thus have some preventive measures to avoid these companies from stealing our data. But it should be noted that supporting these applications affects the security of not only one person but the larger community, but downloading it or not is your decision.
You should remember to never use any payments app when using such applications as the messages from your phone can be compromised, avoid using any mail id that’s linked with the bank, or the use of your main email id. Try to use VPN in most of the possible scenarios.
TikTok is not a regular social media application as it may seem from the top, there have been many questions raised in the past like - Is TikTok Safe?
Its origin from China and the rules of Chinese marketing of providing all information to the Chinese government, its rights to access your sim card location, and loosened content guidelines make it more of a danger than a medium of entertainment.
Even with the bans in the past, the company has not come up with a sensor mechanism and that makes the application inappropriate for the younger generation providing more negative content and promoting nonsocial behaviors.
To save yourselves from these applications you may better not download this application and if interested try using a fresh email id, avoid the use of a sim card with banking details, avoid using payment applications on the device and use VPN whenever possible. Using these rules you can keep yourself away from harm’s way.
We just gave you an overview of all the threats and are not forcing you to stop the use of this app, just think about your security and privacy and after all, you have read this article then question yourself - Is TikTok Safe for me?
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