TikTok has taken the social media world by storm, carving out a secure position in the crowded market. Hailed as the successor to Vine, TikTok allows users to create videos of up to 15 seconds or four connected videos that add up to a minute. These short bursts of content, whether informative, funny, or anything else, appeal to younger generations and their desire to efficiently view content. Unfortunately, many downloaders of the app are unaware that its abilities do more than just play short videos. While TikTok is experiencing great success, no social media app is without its flaws, especially regarding privacy.
Due to the sudden burst of popularity, the Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point studied the app to assess any potential for security breaches or suspicious data collection. Their findings showed TikTok was unable to prevent potential attackers from sending users links that could cause them to lose control of their accounts. Check Point succeeded in retrieving the personal information of some users, such as their names and birthdays, suggesting the app has plenty of work to do on the security front. TikTok is also accused of censoring anti-China content and stealing user data on China’s behalf. While they deny these allegations, the U.S. government sees the app as a serious threat. As a result, they are attempting to ban the app on government issued devices. Some branches of the U.S. military have already banned TikTok on government devices. Although there is no publicly available proof to support the claim that TikTok sells users’ personal information to the Chinese government, there are enough questions being raised that those considering downloading the app should be skeptical.
Outside of privacy concerns, users have been voicing frustrations with the app’s content promotion tactics. In theory, they sound helpful as TikTok pushes content to viewers based on criteria such as likes and searches. However, that quickly become tiresome as the user loses the opportunity to interact with new content, thus limiting the scope of content they can view. The ability to search for new content never wavers, but in an online community as vast as TikTok, users are easily overwhelmed and are not always certain about the kind of content they wish to view. In addition, these types of short videos have only been popular recently, so they are not always easy to categorize or assign to a genre. A movie lover may know they enjoy comedies based on watching the years of comedies that were made before and during their lifetime. While there are funny videos on TikTok as well, some videos blur the lines that divide genres, making them harder to categorize and less likely to be searchable by name. Questionable security and target promotion tactics should not necessarily dissuade someone from downloading TikTok, but they are important factors to consider as most people don’t realize the full scope of the app’s capabilities.