TikTok: What’s the app and how much data does it collect?


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With its mixture of viral dance crazes and lip-sync comedy sketches, TikTok is vastly widespread amongst younger individuals.

Microsoft is in talks to purchase the US operations of the video-sharing app, however what has made it so profitable?

What’s TikTok?

TikTok is sort of a short-form model of YouTube. Customers can submit movies as much as one minute lengthy on the free app and select from an enormous database of songs and filters.

Comedy clips and movie quotes are additionally on supply for customers to lip-sync to.

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Media captionWATCH: Will TikTok be banned?

As soon as a person has greater than 1,000 followers, they’ll additionally broadcast reside to their followers and settle for digital items which might be exchanged for cash.

The app shows movies by individuals a person follows and likewise, extra prominently, content material that the app chooses based mostly on what they’ve watched earlier than.

Non-public messaging can also be obtainable between customers.

How large is it?

Since early 2019, the app has commonly appeared close to the highest of obtain charts.

In the course of the coronavirus lockdowns, there was a surge in curiosity. TikTok and its sister app Douyin – which is on the market in mainland China – now have an estimated two billion downloads worldwide, with about 800 million energetic customers.

Prime 10 nations for TikTok downloads

Thousands and thousands of downloads

The app was vastly widespread in India earlier than the federal government banned it on nationwide safety grounds.

In response to the Wall Avenue Journal, President Trump is contemplating a ban within the US

What are TikTok’s China hyperlinks?

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ByteDance’s founder Zhang Yiming is China’s 10th richest individual, in accordance with the Forbes Wealthy Checklist

TikTok began life as three completely different apps.

The primary was a US app known as Musical.ly, which launched in 2014. In 2016, Chinese language tech big Bytedance launched an analogous service in China known as Douyin.

ByteDance expanded globally underneath the TikTok identify, and in 2018 it purchased Musical.ly and folded it into its TikTok operation.

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Toutiao is considered one of China’s hottest methods to get on-line information

ByteDance has tried to distance its app from its Chinese language possession, appointing former senior Disney government Kevin Mayer as TikTok’s chief government.

How a lot information does TikTok accumulate?

TikTok collects an enormous quantity of information on its customers together with:

  • which movies are watched and commented on
  • location information
  • telephone mannequin and working system used
  • the keystroke rhythms individuals exhibit after they sort

A few of the app’s information assortment has raised eyebrows, together with the current revelation that it was commonly studying the copy-and-paste clipboards of customers.

However this was additionally discovered to be the case for dozens of different apps together with Reddit, LinkedIn, the New York Instances and the BBC Information app.

A lot of TikTok’s information assortment is akin to different data-hungry social networks comparable to Fb. Nevertheless, the UK’s Info Commissioner’s Workplace – a privateness watchdog – is at the moment investigating the app.

May China use TikTok to spy on individuals?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has alleged that TikTok customers are susceptible to their information ending up “within the fingers of the Chinese language Communist Occasion”.

TikTok has repeatedly insisted that information is collected and saved exterior China.

“The suggestion that we’re in any means underneath the thumb of the Chinese language authorities is totally and totally false,” Theo Bertram, TikTok’s head of public coverage for Europe, the Center East and Africa, advised the BBC.

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Nevertheless, as with Huawei, the arguments towards TikTok appear to be based mostly across the theoretical risk of the Chinese language authorities forcing ByteDance handy over information on overseas customers.

The 2017 Nationwide Safety Legislation in China compels any organisation or citizen to “help, help and co-operate with the state intelligence work” in accordance with the legislation.

Mr Bertram mentioned that if TikTok was approached by the Chinese language authorities, “we might positively say no to any request for information”.

However ByteDance can be conscious concerning the penalties of displeasing the Communist Occasion.

The corporate’s personal vastly widespread information app known as Toutiao was taken offline for 24 hours in 2017, in accordance with the South China Morning Publish, after the Beijing Web Info Workplace mentioned it had been spreading “pornographic and vulgar content material”.

Refusing a direct order from the nation’s spymasters may even have penalties for the broader firm and its management.

May TikTok be used for Chinese language propaganda?

One other concern is censorship.

China has one of the vital restricted web areas on the planet, with its notorious Nice Firewall blocking components of the online for its residents.

Final 12 months, the Guardian reported that TikTok’s workers and automatic techniques had enforced moderation guidelines that censored materials deemed to be politically delicate. Footage of Tiananmen Sq. protests and Tibetan independence calls for have been among the many materials mentioned to have be banned or restricted.

Additional reporting from the Washington Publish, which talked to 6 former TikTok workers, mentioned moderators in China had the ultimate say on whether or not flagged movies have been accepted.

ByteDance mentioned the rules referred to had since been phased out.

However some argue that its moderation tradition should be biased in favour of the Chinese language state.

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