Understanding TikTok, A Video App Your Family May Use

TikTok is a video app that allows users to post videos between 15 & 60 seconds long. The app has been downloaded 110 million times in the United States & is especially popular among youth. The United States military branches recently blocked access to the TikTok app for military personnel after a Pentagon Warning. One potential reason for this decision is because the location data that TikTok collects could be used to identify the location of American military bases around the world.

Here is how TikTok tracks your behavior, & a list of questions to answer when deciding if you want to use TikTok for your business:

1. Identify How TikTok Tracks Your Behavior

If you or your family members use TikTok, the app tracks your personal information. That data can conceivably be used to determine where you live, who you live with, where you work, how long you stay at that location, what time you come home, how many floors are in your house or apartment, when you go to sleep & wake up, your interests & purchasing behavior. If you download your data from the app, TikTok organizes the information into five folders. The titles of the folders are Activity, App Settings, Comments, Profile, & Videos. Another sub-folder is called Login History, which records the day & time you log into TikTok, your IP address, device model and system (for example, iPad Pro 9.7), WiFi Network & Carrier. Another folder is called Video Browsing History, which lists each video you have watched in the app. The platform identifies your phone’s screen resolution; for example, 1536 pixels long by 2048 pixels wide. Where does this information go? “TikTok was accused of secretly gathering user data and sending it to China.” Last year, a California college student issued a class-action lawsuit against TikTok for “illegally transferring user data to servers in China” & “harvesting biometrics of users without consent.” The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines biometrics as “the measurement and analysis of unique physical or behavioral characteristics (such as fingerprint or voice patterns).”

In addition, The New York Times recently reported on the app’s major security flaws, potentially allowing hackers to access your personal information. 60 Minutes reported that “in America, when personal information leaks, we have congressional hearings. Not in China.”

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is a technology company operating under the Chinese Community Party. Those familiar with the matter say that’s why videos about the Hong Kong protests are “noticeably absent from TikTok. In China, social media platforms like TikTok are censored by the Chinese Community Party to control what content its users see in order to shape perceptions in line with their authoritarian worldview.”

2. Decide If You Want Use TikTok For Your Business

Take time to address the following questions regarding if you want to use TikTok for your business:

a) Do you want to align your business with TikTok?

b) Do you want to send your customers to this platform?

c) What would your customers think of your business if you use the app?

d) Do your customers use TikTok?

e) If you want to use TikTok for your business, what is your goal when using the app? 

Another item to consider is if your business supports patriotic, pro-American messages & initiatives. For example, do you support a military foundation twice a year & broadcast this message to your customers? If so, what would your customers think if you use TikTok, an app blocked by the United States military?

If your business empowers minors & their parents, have a conversation with the people in your organization about the following items:

a) Do we want to send kids and their parents to TikTok?

b) How would the parents feel about us either introducing TikTok to their kids or keeping them on the platform longer?

c) Do we want to educate the kids and parents about TikTok as your way of working to ensure the well-being of our community both online & offline?

Bringing It All Together:

Since you or your family members may use the video app, you should be aware of the latest news regarding TikTok.

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