By Natalie Notaro
You cannot deny the simple pleasure that comes with scrolling through your TikTok feed. It is almost mindless: you open the app and before you know it, an hour has passed. Maybe even two. Have you ever wondered why this app is so hopelessly addicting?
Is it the high-intensity dances, the catchy songs, the funny comedians or the content that relates directly to you? And can this content be used against you?
This past August, President Trump signed an executive order to ban the app on every Apple device due to security reasons with the Chinese government. This initial ban was blocked by the Trump Administration as of Sept. 27. The president agreed that by Nov. 14, TikTok needs to be owned by a United States company or else there is still potential for banning the app. As of now, TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company located in Beijing.
If we want to keep TikTok on our phones, the app needs to comply with the U.S. government and heighten its security protocol, though doing this is arguably trivial.
According to TikTok, “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too.” Regardless of Trump threatening to ban TikTok, our information is still getting leaked. We don’t even know what American companies do with our data, or why they collect our information in the first place. Even if TikTok was owned by an American company, there would be no significant modifications to our privacy.
“We collect information when you create an account and use the Platform,” according to TikTok. “We also collect information you share with us from third-party social network providers, and technical and behavioral information about your use of the Platform. We also collect information contained in the messages you send through our Platform and information from your phone book.”
Their policy continues to address information that the user consents to provide upon downloading the app, including registration and profile information. They also obtain information from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google. According to Geoffrey Fowler from The Washington Post, “TikTok doesn’t appear to grab any more personal information than Facebook.”
These “other sources,” of which most people have accounts with, are also willing to share your private information, yet they are not being questioned. This is not to say that social media platforms do not violate our privacy — they do. But one consents to the relinquishing of the information upon downloading these apps.
I personally continue to use these media platforms despite the questionable amount of privacy, because apps like Facebook have been listening to its users for years. It is almost a lost cause. When we open these apps or create an account, we sign Terms and Conditions, and consent to the privacy violations. Does that make it right? Probably not. But banning TikTok won’t stop other apps from taking the same information from us.
I would love to continue scrolling through my TikTok feed freely. The app relieves stress and was especially helpful throughout the height of the pandemic. Banning TikTok completely would abolish a creative outlet for people of all ages.