Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The official student newspaper of Methodist Ladies' College, est. 2020

Why TikTok (and virtually every other big tech company) wants your data

Why TikTok Wants Your Data

With the recent banning of TikTok (a Chinese owned social media company) in India, and the push for countries like the United States and Australia to do the same, a new wave of scepticism has swept over the world in relation to Chinese owned enterprises. Compounded by the fact that global tensions with China are at an all-time high, is this push to ban TikTok at all founded?

https://www.tiktok.com/legal/privacy-policy?lang=en

TIKTOK’S TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Looking at TikTok’s terms and conditions – something quite foreign to most of us who simply click “I accept” – we can see that TikTok collects virtually everything. Here are just a few examples of the types of information they collect:[JBS1] 

  • If you use the app, they have all the information you registered with (age, username, password, email / phone number).
  • They collect all “user-generated content” such as comments, photographs, videos and other activity done on the app.
  • If you used your phone number with registration, they have access to all your phone contacts.
  • If you chose to find other users through your social media contacts, they also have access to your public social media profiles and the names and profiles of your social contacts.
  • Other things they have include: your IP address, basically every detail about the phone you use the app on, your location and your typing mannerisms.
  • Anything you send on the app is recorded. 
  • All of this, which has been blessed with your permission through the “I agree”, is then allowed to be sent to “third parties” which can be used to provide more targeted ads, improve the app and inform their algorithms.

Obviously, it is concerning the amount of data that is collected – but how does this compare to American owned tech companies, like perhaps…Facebook? Well, there is basically no difference. In fact, Facebook has constantly been in scandals relating to a complete abuse of the data they collect from its users.

CAMBRIDGE-ANALYTICA DATA SCANDAL

Take, for example, the 2018 Cambridge Analytica data scandal where Facebook gave permission for Cambridge Analytica to illegally “harvest” data from its users without their consent. They aimed to sell this information, and ultimately provide assistance to political campaigns including those of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Other potential uses of the data were reported to be with a Russian oil company “Lukoil”, as well as in Brexit.

Source : Tom Brenner
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook and Lizards, attending congress

Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the United States congress, where he was asked 600 questions relating to this scandal, and Facebook’s data collection in general. Despite this, Facebook was not banned, and, in the end, little was done to stop the tech giant from continuing to collect users’ data.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DATA:

For one, data is valuable. Being able to collect data improves the algorithms of apps, making the apps more efficient, reducing costs and improving the consumer’s experience. More importantly, however, is the ability to make targeted advertisement,, which is beneficial to third parties who will pay top dollar to get their product to their targeted demographic. This can also be said for political campaigns, who want to get their ideology to the general population.

The more data collected, the more benefits producers of such apps reap, and so the incentive for data collection is established. It is vital, therefore, to be aware of the importance of the data you put out onto the internet, and how companies capitalise on your data to sell to third parties. Think about it this way: if the product is free, you are the product.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TIKTOK?

Well, it means that there are larger games being played and that it has more to do with who owns the tech companies, rather than their purpose in data collection. Some argue that the Chinese government is using TikTok, and other companies such as Huawei, to collect information via technological espionage – making them a threat to national security. However, tech companies such as Facebook, sell users’ private information to push political agendas, which could be argued as a threat to democracy, and regulating this practice would be in the best interests of the people.

So, the hypocrisy is clear. More needs to be done in order to protect our privacy and democracy, in the form of government regulation, but also protect the integrity of apps such as TikTok and Facebook, so people can continue to benefit from their use without worrying for their safety.

Further reading:

https://theconversation.com/the-ugly-truth-tech-companies-are-tracking-and-misusing-our-data-and-theres-little-we-can-do-127444

https://www.tiktok.com/legal/privacy-policy?lang=en

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook%E2%80%93Cambridge_Analytica_data_scandal

https://www.hornetsecurity.com/en/security-information/data-value/#:~:text=Data%3A%20The%20resource%20of%20the,data%20is%20considered%20a%20resource.&text=In%20a%20study%20on%20data,analyzed%20information%20to%20determine%20demand.


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