Despite how powerfully good it can be for those who engage in its entertaining videos and learn new tips, TikTok is increasing a growing threat to our privacy and security.
TikTok has gained a leading position in the social media platform world. All the cool kids use TikTok. And most don't bat an eye while laughing at, liking, and sharing one video after another.
It's addictive, informative and fun for millions. TikTok, even more than other social networks, comes at an enormous trade-off to your privacy and security because of how and what it gathers about your life. The threat posed by TikTok is so extreme that some countries have banned it altogether. It's not uncommon for parents who work at big tech companies to forbid the use of TikTok by their own children.
That's not slowing its growth. So, how do tame this beast of all its bad traits?
Sure, the safest thing to do is never download or delete TikTok right away, but that's not going to fly with most people who are deciding to throw caution to the wind.
Follow me here, because I think we can strike a balance and make everyone in the family happy while getting a lot smarter about what TikTok is doing behind the scenes with our lives. There's one obvious wake-up call I ask of every parent.
Ask this one question
Am I okay with the government of communist China having access to my child's intimate personal details, knowing what gets their attention, and always tracking their whereabouts?
That's not all TikTok is harvesting of your family's security and privacy. They are stealthily scraping bits and pieces of your life to serve up videos it's learned you'll watch and to turn you into a juicy ad target. That part is the obvious trade-off we expect in a data mining financial model that is standard for every major big tech media company.
The Chinese government can access your data from TikTok
The concerning part unique to TikTok is that it is owned by a parent company ByteDance whose home is in mainland China. And in that country, the government laws require ByteDance to give access to its data for any reason whatsoever and without any sort of court order or warrant. TikTok maintains that it is operated independently of ByteDance but data moving from its U.S. servers to mainland China has already been identified.
So what, right? TikTok collects a massive array of data that it then processes through a machine algorithm to master aspects of your life in extraordinary detail. TikTok is known to record the device you are using, your location, IP address, search history, everything in all your messages, what you watch and for how long, biometric information including your face and voice prints, whom you know and how you interact with them.
TikTok knows more about you than you ever imagined
Sophisticated algorithms driving social media networks like TikTok can identify what topics and emotional tones capture your attention most easily.
All this crafting of your communications and interactions makes for an easy target for TikTok to steer in one direction or another knowing what you will react to like a puppet. It may sound like science fiction, but it is the very reason why many Silicon Valley executives do not allow their own children on TikTok and several other social media platforms.
Let's narrow the exposure we are handing over to TikTok by changing a few basic settings. Follow these steps with everyone in the family who uses TikTok. Then, share these tips with anyone you love who could benefit from getting a bit of leverage over TikTok.
How to turn off access to Your Contacts and Facebook Friends
How to disable personalized Ad Targeting
How to make your account private
How to turn off Suggest Your Account to Others
How to prevent TikTok from sharing your 'likes'
Download what TikTok knows about you by requesting your data
It typically takes a few days to receive the link to your TikTok data to download. Be on the lookout for the TikTok link containing your data report since you only have 4 days before the link expires.
Send me a note if you aren't as shocked as I was when I saw what TikTok had recorded of my life. That's one of the reasons I deleted TikTok for good.
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