A US update on the TikTok saga

As you know Trump tried to ban TikTok from the US, and a compromise was reached with TikTok that US user data would only be stored in US data-centers. Sounds a bit similar to the Irish ruling in 2020. What I am thinking is that US intelligence have the power/mandate to access data of EU data subjects under FISA 702, so what if China have something similar?

Anyhow despite my speculations, there is a new development. It seems that biometric data may or will be collected by TikTok, as it stands now, only US TikTok users, although consent will be required. Apparently it seems that now all US states require consent for the collection of biometric data!

But what about all the underage users? There is a law which mandates parental consent (of minors) in the US. A significant number of TikTok users are minors, and the mind boggles when it comes to the collection of biometric data of minors…..how aware are the parents. More and more I am coming to the view that TikTok should be banned…. even though my daughter is a user, and the fun and benefits are boundless.

My TikTok – My Observations

Well apart from the fact that my 10 year old daughter has been an avid user of TikTok for 2 years, my interest would be nonetheless sparked by the torrent of privacy issues which have been popping up left, right and centre. I thought it could be good to give you an idea of what TikTok actually is if you haven’t tried it (yet), and what it means to kids, because I’ve actually spent some time there.

To summarise on the list of issues I see:

  • TikTok is a Chinese business and hence privacy is not something they feel strongly about so I just don’t trust them -I guess this is a British understatement 😉
  • They are not following any of the GDPR principles, e.g. data minimisation on content created by EU data subjects, incl. minors.
  • Privacy is not built in the design of the App -you only need to Google to find what I mean here.
  • Kids are be stalked by sexual predators, there are no ‘safe gardens’ for kids.
  • Kids are being cyber-bullied -aggressively, and not only by peers but by older users, the Trolls.

Nonetheless, TikTok is in fact fun! I created an account 2 years ago to try and understand why kids were here. All good material for my next book! As a success, one TikTok Post (below) I made together with the help of my daughter got of 67,8k Views, 3 630 Likes and circa 100 Comments. So had had something perfect to use for my analysis.

Fun observations:

  • It’s addictive, and getting involved as a parent has removed barriers we had concerning the use of TikTok or other social media Apps.
  • The inbuilt templates provides kids with opportunities to test their creative abilities beyond what I ever thought was possible. Working with my daughter to create this and other TikToks has given me an insight of what the world could look like when they are entering the workplace!
  • Watching kids collaborate on TikTok and other social Apps is mind-blowing beyond what we ever did ourselves as kids. We have a generation of kids growing up socially connected/collaborating -these kids won’t understand why our generation had to learn how to work as a team.
  • I was amazed at how my daughter on seeing some rather nasty comments, just deleted them, and then how she advised me to ignore them.
  • Accounts setup -at least 2 years ago- were not on Only Friends as a default.

Worrying observations:

  • I saw kids being cyber-bullied on TikTok aggressively one poor girl who couldn’t have been older than 9 was being attacked as ugly… the Comments were damning. There was a ‘report abuse’ button which I used, but there was no follow-up.
  • The template we used was damned as racist “100% DNA, Swedish”. Although not raciest, they are triggers for Trolls.
  • Kids can be easily lured into creating ‘duets’ or more and I’ve seen kids kissing through a virtual wall to older teenage boys when singing together a love song. This makes online grooming very easy.
  • It is likely that many kids have multiple accounts for reasons such as they lost their password and can’t fix it, or they are harassed by cyberstalkers and need to move.

This is the TikTok I made together with my daughter which went viral a couple of years ago. Btw. Something going viral, doesn’t mean it’s good…. so you’ve been warned 🙂