Privacy Issues in Tiktok Vs in Other Social Media Apps

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TikTok is a social media app made by a Chinese company, ByteDance. The app was released in September 2016, and it has become very popular lately. TikTok allows people to make short videos with a duration of one minute or shorter. People use this platform to show their talents, make funny videos, or post other things they want to share with other people. TikTok has more than 1.5 billion active users (Stokel-Walker, 1) all over the world, and it has become more popular than Instagram which has around 1 billion active users. Now that TikTok has become the most popular social media apps, people become more concerned about privacy issues in TikTok than in other social media apps. In reality, TikTok is just like any other social media apps, and it is not more dangerous than them.

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TikTok failed to seek explicit parental consent before collecting the names, email addresses, and other personal information for users under the age of 13, and it was fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) (Cavanagh, 1). Although it was a very big issue, privacy issues do not only come from TikTok. In 2015, a privacy watchdog group in Belgium had sued Facebook for not complying with local privacy laws, and the social network will be fined $269,000 a day if it does not adhere to the ruling within 48 hours of receiving the court’s official order (Swartz, 1). In early 2018, millions of Facebook users’ data was taken without consent by Cambridge Analytica (Heawood, 1). In May 2018, Jeff Bezos’ mobile phone was hacked after receiving a message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia on WhatsApp (Austin, 1). TikTok’s violation gained much national attention due to the fact that it was the highest monetary penalty applied to a social media company regarding privacy, but these violations are extremely common among social network businesses like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and WhatsApp. Privacy issues in businesses like these are almost inevitable. Some of them are caused by social network companies, and some of them are caused by other people.

When using the internet, people already give up a little of their privacy to the public. For example, when someone posts something on the internet, that information is no longer private. The information posted also may fall to the wrong hands. One of the most common things people do is cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is the use of the internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or organization, and it may include false accusations, defamation, slander, and libel (Wikipedia). Another common thing people do is phishing. It is an attempt to gain access to sensitive personal information. It usually takes the form of an email, a text message, or a phone call. A phishing attack presents itself as a message from a legitimate organization and tries to trick people into sharing sensitive data, including passwords, banking information, or credit card details. Malware (malicious software) is also often used to get someone’s data illegally. Malware can be used to steal sensitive information (spyware), extort money (ransomware), or profit from forced advertising (adware) once it has infiltrated someone’s computer. These privacy threats are different from the ones that are caused by social network companies.

Every time someone creates a new social media account, they provide personal information that can include their name, birth date, geographic location, and personal interests. When someone creates an Instagram account and make it private, other people cannot see anything on that account unless their following request is accepted by the owner of the account. However, making a private social media account still does not keep people’s privacy from the social network they use. Everyone leaves a digital footprint or data trail when surfing the internet. Companies such as Bing, Google, or Microsoft Edge, record those digital footprints. Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok also do the same thing. All the data collected by social media apps or social network companies will be sold to third-party companies, and those companies will use it for advertising purposes (Libby, 1). That is why advertisers know who their audiences are and know how to target them for advertising. Social Network companies use microtargeting in their business model. Microtargeting can be harmful to social networks users because it exploits personal data, it conceal its true nature, it makes claims made in private cannot be corrected in the marketplace of ideas, it may contain misinformation, it allows political parties to make incompatible promises to different segments of the electorate, and it allows political actors outside our own country to target us with misinformation or disinformation (Heawood, 1).

Privacy issues in social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are getting out of hand. One of the reasons is because while technological capabilities and user adoption continue to grow at an amazing rate, social media is governed by the same privacy laws applicable to the online environment and certain types of data (whether collected online or offline) (Loeffler, 1). Another reason is that there is no comprehensive privacy legislation in the United States. Instead, the privacy law framework is made up of a patchwork of laws and regulations that address privacy issues for different segments of personal information, consumers, or industries (Loeffler, 1). Social network companies and government institutions such as the Federal Communications Commission always try to protect the privacy of social network users.

One of the ways social network companies protect their users from being harmed by other people is by making a two-factor authentication to log in to their social media account. Two-factor authentication helps prevent someone to log in to other people’s social media account because it will ask a verification code that is sent to the account owner’s phone number or email. Government institutions protect social network users’ privacy by passing laws and regulations. However, microtargeting should be one of their focuses because it is very clear that microtargeting is harmful to social network users.

Every privacy threat in social networks is the same for every social media app such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. Although TikTok has been very popular lately, its privacy issues are the same as other social media apps. Privacy issues in social media pass can be caused by social network companies and other social network users. To protect social network users’ privacy, social network companies update their apps to increase security, and government institutions pass law and regulation for these social media apps. However, microtargeting seems not regulated very well because it often occurs. Therefore, government institutions should focus on solving this problem in every social media app.

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