KYLIEBYTES: Is your data safe on TikTok?

We should be serious with our online security

If TikTok makes you feel old, you’re not alone. I’m still slightly confused about the whole craze. It’s only been a couple years since I was making Vines with my friends at the mall, so everyone please, give me a second to comprehend this one.

TikTok has everything from cringey lip-syncs to nail-biting, cinematic masterpieces. Simply put, it’s another platform for people to show off their creativity. The app has been downloaded a shocking 1.5 billion times and spans 500 million active users across the globe.

Users aspire for fame through posting short clips.  We even have a TikTok influencer on our own campus. There’s a lot of personal success to be achieved on this app, where your videos can be viewed without even having the mobile software downloaded. 

RELATED: 16 questions with Sac State TikTok star Nebaiot Lemma

As a junior in college who just turned 21, I didn’t really see the appeal here. I brushed it off until it began taking over. Now it’s impossible to scroll down my Instagram feed without seeing at least a few viral TikToks.

Story continues below TikTok.

@tituswhatget the gat w prez nels #fyp #xyzcba♬ GET THE GAT – r3alslimsadi3

Shortly after its popularity sparked worldwide attention, The Guardian released leaked documents from TikTok moderators, in which they were asked to censor videos critical of China’s Communist Party. 

The Beijing-based company called ByteDance acquired TikTok, formerly known as, in 2017. The U.S government began investigating ByteDance amid these accusations, to find out if they’re potentially giving American data to the Chinese government. 

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy even forbid the use of TikTok by U.S soldiers as a result of national security concerns.

I understand our government’s concern for our safety, to a degree. It’s ironic nonetheless, and some opinions on the matter seem to be rooted in xenophobia

I think we should be wary of calling out Chinese-based tech companies when the facts are few and far between. Communists probably aren’t spying on us through a mobile platform that records kids doing the “renegade.”

I’d love to hear Joseph McCarthy’s opinion on this one though. Truly, the irony of it is painful. With the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal only a few years in our past, we probably shouldn’t be pointing fingers all too fast.

To briefly explain, Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that purchased the personal data of millions of Facebook users without consent, to create targeted political ads during the 2016 presidential elections. If we can’t protect the data of American citizens from our own presidential candidates, I think there’s a lot more to be discussed on the domestic front.

It’s easy to say these are national security concerns, but the CEO of TikTok spoke to the New York Times and explicitly said that he “would turn down the country’s leader if asked directly to remove content or hand over data from the app.” That doesn’t sound like a loyalist giving our data to a foreign government. 

He even noted that TikTok has zero servers in China — they’re located in Virginia and Singapore. These scare tactics used in the media can have brutal consequences, and we should be careful pretending that these claims are at all credible.

At the end of the day, the truth is you shouldn’t be trusting anyone with your data. It’s not just TikTok or Facebook, it could be any free platform that you choose to use. A common phrase used in tech is “if the product is free, then you are the product.” 

You shouldn’t need a law degree to be able to read the fine print, but it’s best to educate yourself wherever possible in order to protect yourself.

TikTok could be selling data, but maybe every other app you download is too. Your privacy is an important asset, and these scandals prove that we need to take our own precautions. 

Ultimately, you’re probably safe recording your favorite trends on TikTok.