BLOG Analyzing TikTok’s Influence Amidst Growing Privacy Concerns

Published: May 14, 2024 7 min read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

In the ever-changing landscape of social media, TikTok has dominated a unique space, defined by its insatiable virality and unmatched ability to represent the zeitgeist at any given point. Its rise from the bustling tides of short-form video platforms to cultural juggernaut has been nothing short of meteoric. However, amidst its unprecedented growth, a growing liability of privacy concerns casts doubt on the long-term sustainability of its influence — and the trust of its user base.

TikTok’s Unrivaled Rise and Its Consequences


The TikTok Phenomenon

We all know what TikTok is at this point: short videos, curated feed, predictive algorithm that hooks users in, so on and so forth. Borrowing elements from Vine, Instagram, and other social media platforms that crawled so they could run, TikTok has transcended the moniker of “social media platform” — ultimately becoming the face of a cultural movement.

As a launchpad for viral challenges, memes, and the world’s next pop icons, TikTok’s appeal is broad — cutting through age demographics and transcending geographical borders.

With access to a wide swath of user data, it is exactly this reason that prompted lawmakers to investigate the app’s inner workings.

The Ominous Cloud of Privacy Concerns

A slew of privacy concerns has cropped up around the app’s data collection practices. Numerous reports have underlined its data-mining activity, particularly targeting personal content and usage patterns – all shrouded under the veil of its parent company, China-based artificial intelligence firm ByteDance. The geopolitical tensions between the United States and China further complicate matters, with debates erupting over national security implications, especially in relation to the collection of data on minors.

According to a report from the non-profit Public Interest Research Group, TikTok does not collect more data than other prominent social media platforms. Examples of data collection include:

  • DMs
  • Country location
  • Internet address
  • Device type

PIRG also notes that the app seemingly estimates a user’s household income (consider the ads that have made #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt an in-app phenomenon) and how expensive one’s device is.

What is TikTok Doing with User Information?

The pressing concern is what exactly ByteDance is doing with sensitive user information. Like other platforms, the data usage informs a user’s algorithm and drives user behavior — but what lies beneath?

In March 2023, TikTok CEO Shou Chew sat at the center of a marquee hearing surrounding the app’s data usage and potential ties to the Chinese government. Amidst the hearing, Chew said that TikTok is “free from any manipulation from any government” and further clarified that “The bottom line is … American data stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel.”

Furthermore, PIRG notes, despite the prevailing thought of China utilizing the personal data of Americans, the reality is that the Chinese government could simply buy consumer information from data brokers that sell sensitive data in bulk.

As of this writing, President Joe Biden signed a law — nestled in a foreign aid bill — that would ban TikTok shall the company not be sold within a year.

User Response and Industry Comparisons

Global Usage Remains Strong

Amidst these growing concerns, TikTok still remains one of the most-used social media apps around the world. According to Statista, the United States has 150 million active users on the app (consider the nation boasts nearly 340 million citizens), Indonesia has 126 million, and Brazil has 99 million. Despite global concerns about privacy and cybersecurity, the app still has a demonstrably unfaltering support from its user base.

How Does TikTok Stack Up Against The Competition?

In a broader context, the scrutiny of TikTok’s privacy practices leads to questions about how it fares against its social media rivals. While each has its own track record with user data, TikTok’s unique cocktail of concerns — including but not limited to violation of COPPA (as seen by a $5.7 million payout in 2019), further child data privacy violations overseas (see TikTok’s $368 million fine from the Data Protection Commission [DPC]), and unclear data usage policies — raises the benchmark for expectations in the industry.

Practical Privacy: A User’s Survival Guide

Navigating the TikTok Minefield

For the TikTok user concerned about their privacy, there exist practical measures to take.

  • Managing data permissions
  • Reviewing privacy settings
  • Limiting the audience of your content
  • Critically assessing the type of content posted

These all contribute to a safer user experience. Staying informed and abreast of any changes in TikTok’s privacy policy is also of paramount importance.

The Future of TikTok’s Influence and the Role of Privacy

Looking Forward

The question remains — can TikTok weather this storm and emerge with its influence intact? With the growing importance of privacy in the public discourse, TikTok’s trajectory will likely mirror its ability to adapt to these concerns. Transparency and user control may well define the app’s future strategy.

Privacy as a Currency

In the broader context of social engagement, privacy is becoming increasingly recognized as a currency in its own right. There’s a shift occurring where users are willing to allocate their attention, creativity, and personal data in exchange for privacy-respecting platforms. Those that fail to adhere to this construct risk falling by the wayside.

Keeping Ahead of the Social Media Curve with ONE18MEDIA

In conclusion, the juxtaposition of TikTok’s infectious content and underlying privacy concerns is not an anomaly in the digital age. It’s a stern reminder of the careful balance that platforms must strike to maintain the trust of their users while harnessing the power of data. The road ahead for TikTok is uncertain, but one thing is clear – privacy and trust are not commodities to be bought and sold, but pillars upon which social media’s future must rest.

At ONE18MEDIA, we are always remaining one step ahead of the social media curve. With our focused team of digital marketing connoisseurs, we have a commitment to partaking in best social media practices — all with our clients in mind. To learn more about our unique approach to digital marketing, please visit our blog and get in touch with us today.