India’s ban of TikTok last week cause quite a stir across the world.
The social media platform allows users to upload short, entertaining videos set to music.
Owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech company, TikTok’s popularity has exploded over the past year with a spike of users signing up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, it has been downloaded more than 2 billion times, according to research firm Sensor Tower, with 623 million coming during the first half of this year.
The Indian government had stated that the ban of TikTok and other well-known Chinese apps was due to concerns that they pose a “threat to sovereignty and integrity.” This has led to the US and Australia also considering blocking the app. Many U.S. government organisations and companies had already banned the downloading or use of the app on government-issued phones prior to President Trump’s announcement.
Amazon’s recent ban – and its reversal on the decision hours later – was met with bemusement by employees, social media users and media outlets. It had initial sent an internal memo instructing employees to delete the app before July 10 “to retain mobile access to Amazon email” before stating that it was sent in error.
It isn’t the first time that TikTok has come under scrutiny over privacy concerns and its data collection process. Business Insider had reported that TikTok that is collecting user metadata, which can include usernames, how and when users signed up for the service, phone numbers and device types, and significant location data.
While experts who spoke to Business Insider noted that its policies are similar to US apps like Facebook, the app has been caught accessing data on users’ phones including clipboard data. TikTok has stated that it had disabled these features but it remains to be seen if any additional security or privacy breaches are caught.
The Guardian had also previously reported that internal documents instructed moderators to censor content that could anger the Chinese government.
It’s currently available in 154 countries and is the second most popular free apps download in 2019. Additionally, users experience a much higher engagement compared to other popular platforms, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. As a result, there is a constant stream of content creation and consumption offering benefits for users, especially influencers along with brands and businesses, including the chance to be discovered and followed.
Its in-app financing features also mean that users can tap into new revenue streams, donations, and more.
We’ve been mostly conditioned to blindly accept the Terms and Conditions, whether of social media apps, tech gadgets, websites (including cookies) or anything that involves access to the internet. Tech companies and social media platforms often put the burden of understanding and accepting them on users with T&C documents that are full of legalese that make it difficult to understand. If users don’t accept then they are “punished” by being denied access.
The tide may yet change though if the news around TikTok and other platforms, such as Facebook (Stop Hate for Profit boycott), is any indication. We might find that one day users can opt-in to terms that they agree with and refuse others, especially when it comes to collecting data and user behaviour.
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