Tiktok Is China’s Next Big Weapon

from Axios

Chinese social media is largely impenetrable for most in the West — just check out their memes — but Sino tech giants have their eye on owning the U.S. market, evidenced by the rise of TikTok.

Why it matters: While the video-based app simply seems like a benign platform for Gen Zers to make and share funny memes, it’s could become a Chinese vacuum for coveted American data.

Between the lines: TikTok’s “parent company, ByteDance, recently valued at more than $75 billion, bills itself first as an artificial intelligence company, not a creator of mission-driven social platforms,” per the New York Times. Its secret sauce: “Apparently you just … show [users] things, and let a powerful artificial intelligence take notes.”

More here.

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8 Comments

  1. In the middle of 2019, the largely famous app TikTok became a social media platform that would later on be one of the leading apps for young teens and adults. This app, which includes many features, let’s you record yourself with edits, sounds, music, filters and more to compile a 60 second video. In my opinion this platform has been dominating the market with the use of ads, celebrity endorsement, and targeting the direct audience of young teens to young adults, but also tapping into the older age group. The app is easy to use and navigate, and offers a comedic relief for most users. This has been a useful spot for movie release commercials, popular company commercials, and even the company Tasty who makes short How-To videos for recipes. As stated in the article, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, spent $1 billion on advertising in 2018. Platforms like this gain so much popularity so quickly mostly from their advertising efforts and their celebrity endorsements. Young teens follow their idealized superstars and want to be apart of the ongoing trends which is how TikTok has become more famous over the past 6 months or so. Sino tech giants have had their eyes on the US market for some time now, looking to own the larger companies that are popular. In the article it’s said that, people would not prefer China’s tech giants which stuck out to me because there are issues with privacy and surveillance. An issue that I remember specifically and was also brought up in this article was FaceApp in which you uploaded a picture of yourself and it transformed you into a more aged version of yourself. This is a true example of privacy concerns because there was a rumor of the app taking your picture for a database and recognition. There were also concerns with the dating apps mentioned in the articles. It’s scary when these apps are having privacy issues and especially since TikTok is mostly used by young teens, there could be further issues involved. China is taking the information learned from these successful American companies and seeing how they can use those efforts in their own business ways. It is a smart decision for China to research American efforts to bring back and develop into their own, but it also could be hurting America with having such a high competitor like China. The one advantage America has over China is their ability to be more secure of a market. The potential for China to develop more unsecure apps and platforms is more likely. There could be further issues with technological wars and different companies trying to compete for the same audience. The most difficult part,in my opinion, is reaching the audience without breach of confidentiality or privacy is the most effective way to market social media platforms. An issue that has been very common in the past is the breach of security with different apps. I specifically remember an app in which a cat talked to you, which was made for young children. This app was later to be discovered as a hidden camera in which the app would breach security and tap into your phone to see your every move through the front facing camera. This is a very common issue with technology and has become something that parents are now worrying about with the development of apps for children.

  2. I personally have never been and still am not a big social media user. Other than you tube, I don’t even have any social media accounts created for myself. But I am very aware of the popularity of the new platform known as Tik Tok. I already knew about the large amounts of money spent on advertisement as Tik Tok has been viewed in ads for months now without end. However I was unaware that Tik Tok was a Chinese creation and company. But this does not change my views to now be skeptical of the true reason for the platform. I do not believe there is secret malicious intent behind the storage of user information. I doubt users have to provide extremely valuable information other than a full name and a birthday. Credit cards or any other form of payment shouldn’t be stored on the app either because I do not see reason for purchases to be made. If you truly wanted to find information on a person through social media profiles, you would look into a Facebook or Instagram, not set up a social media platform used for sharing memes. This belief that Tik Tok is China’s “new big weapon” is just paranoia, like many conspiracies are. I would guess that the information being stored will be used for things such as target advertising in the future if Tik Tok does not already have advertisement. As a popular platform growing at such a rapid rate, Tik Tok could make a lot of money by letting others advertise to its users.

  3. TikTok is a app that people of all ages use , especially since being home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Although it is an app based in China, I really do not see much harm from the app , as it is also similar to apps like Snap chat and Instagram , that scans one location and other personal data. Google is very big on using their users account information such as emails and phone numbers so they are able to sell them to telemarketers. As us users sign up for these social platforms, we have agreed to whatever it is that is in the terms of agreements, and it is our responsibility to read through the agreement before we sign off or agree to it . Although most of the information that us users might find harmful to our privacy are in small print , the information is still there , weather if it is meant to be seen or not , it is there . The only problem with TikTok is that it is an app that is run through China, so they fear the success that the app can give the country in revenue and access to our American data. Americans give off their data everyday without knowing it , since our phones hear us talking and tracks our recent searches to make ads pop up that we were talking about “confidentially”. TikTok is just the latest new trend that has gone viral , and Americans are those who partake in the app the most. They risk themselves everyday when using google , or social apps like facebook and they tend to be just fine, do not blame TikTok and not Google as well .

  4. This is definitely an interesting read. There’s so many points addressed. In fact, some are quite frightening to ponder about. Is TikTok really taking advantage of American data and using it as a weapon? I feel this idea could go many directions. However, a fact still stands is that Tiktok is owned by ByteDance which is an artificial intelligence company. Apparently their secret sauce is “show [users] things, and let a powerful artificial intelligence take notes”(Savitsky). That is a frightening thing to think about. Could you imagine an AI recording all your interactions and behaviors without your permission. It also has access to data you are not even aware of. I find it very unethical that my data is being recorded without my permission especially since it’s being recorded by a foreign company. Another thought to improvise on is the possible threat this could mean for our military. If a child with a parent in the military uses Tiktok, what are the chances that the data being recorded could be used as an advantage? There are safety precautions that need to be prioritized. Personally, I have avoided using the application because I do not feel comfortable with it. However, I am going to wait to hear more about what happens in the ongoing case. If the results prove to be safe then I might consider getting the app. As for now, that is heavily not something I have considered to have. How important is your safety to you? Are you okay with your data being collected without your notice?

  5. Im a fan of social media, as I have ultiple different platforms that I use. However, I have noticed the growth and trend of TikTok but it never impressed me. To learn how TikTok operates by artificial intelligence from just showing some things makes me a little nervous. What would happenAll of social media does have the threat of giving your data away to different companies, that most people are not aware of, because users do not read what they are agreeing to. If this is the case, many people are not aware of their surroundings when just “trying to have fun” so there could be some very important information in a TikTok video. With the parent company being ByteDance a Chinese company, some of the information TikTok gets from each user could end up in the hands of the Chinese government. People need to be careful of what they sign up for as a Russian Company managed to have access to multiple photo libraries compromised.

  6. The app Tiktok exploded in popularity last year. I did not know they were based in China, nor did I think any problems could occur from that. It was only until recently did I find out that the Chinese mega company could be gathering American data and selling it to the Chinese government. This would be a major breach in privacy, and would have the US worry about them stealing and gathering data on Americans.
    Today, Tiktok is one of the most downloaded and well known apps in many countries. Especially in China and the US. The company has built up a massive loyal fan base extremely quickly which definitely caught the attention of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The only problem I could see is that Tiktok is having such a big presence within our country. Ever since the US tried to ban the company Huwaei from doing business within our country, we have been very skeptical about large Chinese owned businesses coming in.
    Not only is it a platform for people to express themselves through videos, but it is also a marketing magnet. Influencers are paid top dollar to promote brands on their Tiktok and the results are great.

  7. About six months ago I discovered the app Tik Tok it seemed like a rip off of the popular 6 second video app Vine that was popular abut five years ago, the app had a whole bunch of goofy 15-30 second videos that kids ands teens would make with there friends typically it would be some sort of dancing video, I just brushed it off and figured it was some fad that would go away in a couple months, but I then realized I was very wrong. Over the last few months I few like I see Tik Tok videos making their way on to other Social medias like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, Tik Tok videos seem to be everywhere. Tik Tok also has a lot “stars” that have gained millions of followers, with that said these influencers get paid based on the traffic that persons page brings in, Tik Tok makes millions off Ad revenue from companies who want to market there product on Tik Tok. So why could Tik Tok be such a problem from the national security of America? As mentioned in the article Tik Tok could be a Chinese vacuum for American Data, Tik Tok is owned by a company called ByteDance which an Artificial Intelligence company, this Chinese based company has spent a billion dollars in advertisement for Tik Tok in America. Tik Tok has came out saying “user data is stored and processed in the U.S. and other markets where TikTok operates at industry-leading third-party data centers. It’s important to clarify that TikTok does not operate in China and that the government of the People’s Republic of China has no access to TikTok users’ data.” but how actually reliable is this information Tik Tok is putting out as it just makes them look good from a PR stand point, I think the U.S. government should definitely be keeping an eye on Tik Toks corporate movements in and outside of the United States, the real scary part about all this is that other Chinese tech giants could follow in the footsteps of TikTok and exact data from the U.S.

  8. Reading this article a year after its initial publishing still brings about the same feelings of unease as when the news first came out. TikTok has completely taken over the social media landscape with billions of hours of content being consumed daily and hundreds of millions of users active daily. These statistics have probably increased since their release as well! Now the question of why comes up. Concerns over the protection of one’s data have always been around. Whether it be with the use of a new tech product or an app, people have always been wary about who can see their data and where it’s being sent. People have always voiced concerns for companies like Apple and Facebook who are said to take user data but if that is the case, how did TikTok slip through the cracks? Apple and Facebook being American companies scared people because there was easy access to user data but the fear of it being used in a bad way. Now with TikTok, it is not an American company that is taking user data but a company overseas in China.

    While the entire situation is concerning, it can also be viewed as slightly hypocritical. Personally, I did not download TikTok when it first became popular. I was hesitant because the app itself did not interest me and I had already become aware of the data concerns. However, everyone around me began downloading and using the app so I eventually caved in and gave it a try. Now, I have become an active user. Despite my knowledge of TikTok’s data collection, I have allowed myself to become involved in the app’s community. Since starting to use TikTok, I feel that ads have continued to be catered outside the app as well as towards the stuff I watched. While this was originally somewhat concerning when it was just on apps like Instagram and Facebook, with TikTok it becomes even more so. TikTok’s algorithm is what they pride themselves on. The videos you watch, like, and comment on will be compiled by the AI behind the program and then you will be shown even more content that would possibly interest you. This starts from the moment you open the app.

    Now imagine consistent use for 6 months and you will find that the videos you see will most likely all be within your realm of interest. TikTok can compile your likes and dislikes quickly and easily to form a page of content that users will want to see to keep them on the app consuming more content. This is one of the many reasons people stick around on the app but have also become weary of it. The United States government and the Trump Administration have now set their sites on banning TikTok. Their logic runs along the same lines as the information Savitsky brought up in the article. People are becoming concerned with the amount of data being sent to China while most American apps are banned in China for the sake of multinational data protection. These data concerns should always be considered when using a new app and caution should always be exercised when engaging in unknown internet territory.

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