American president Donald Trump has said he will ban popular video sharing app TikTok for fears the Chinese-owned app could be used for spying.
TikTok has about 800 million users worldwide and has become a hit sensation during lockdown, attracting younger audiences to create, watch and share short-form videos online. Donald Trump has said he will ban the ever-popular app in the United States because China may use it as an intelligence gathering tool. TikTok parent company ByteDance denies these accusations and denies any links with Beijing.
TikTok uses Artificial Intelligence
TikTok uses Artificial Intelligence to determine a user’s interests and preferences from what content they view on TikTok. This Artificial Intelligence then creates and displays a feed of content for each individual user. They do this via an algorithm that determines a user profile based on which videos they interact with and how they interact with those videos. The AI examines metrics like how long you watch a video for and if you commented or liked this video.
Other algorithms like those used by YouTube or Netflix predict what you might like based on what you have viewed and what others who viewed the same content had also viewed (similarity). However, the TikTok algorithm tries to tailor the feed to what it thinks you will like based on the manor of your interaction with the content you’ve previously viewed (predictive).
If you were not already aware of this, you might now think of how accurate or inaccurate those predictions have been. But if you’ve spent over 15 minutes a day looking TikTok than you know, it worked.
We know the TikTok AI works because TikTok has over 800 Million users worldwide.
Privacy Concerns with TikTok
In February of this year, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman called the TikTok App “Spyware” he continued on to say:
Huffman is a long-time advocate of net neutrality rules. In early 2017, Huffman told The New York Times: “without net neutrality protections you give internet service providers the ability to choose winners and losers”.
Huffman has used his platform to urge Reddit users to show their support for net neutrality by contacting elected representatives in Washington. Claiming that the repeal of net neutrality rules suppresses competition.
TikTok responded by stating: “These are baseless accusations made without a shred of evidence.”
National Security Issues
In early 2019 American think tank, Peterson Institute for Internation Economics investigated TikTok. Part of their findings showed that TikTok was popular with members of the armed forces. This was one concern of many as this poses a national security risk. The national security risk is because of the app’s ability to disclose your location and send an image of you and biometrics. The Biometric data which can be transmitted is physical, physiological and behavioural characteristics gathered by the TikTok algorithm.
Under Chinese law this data must be provided to the Chinese government if requested see: China Internet Security Law. To further complicate the matter, ByteDance’s CEO and founder Zhang Yiming released a letter in 2018 setting forth that the company would “further deepen cooperation” with the ruling Chinese Communist Party and to promote its policies.
Tiktok Deny the allegations
TikTok themselves maintain they have no links to the Chinese government and would never provide user data if requested by the Chinese government. TikTok have said they do not censor any topic or video considered sensitive by the Chinese government.
TikTok also tweeted and put a video online featuring Vanessa Pappas (US General manager) saying they are not going anywhere despite the threat of a ban. ByteDance pledged high level transparency and even committed to a review by regulators.
Shaddowbanned on TikTok?
What is a shadowban, and why are some people talking about shadow bans? The Shadowban is an almost secret ban of the user’s social media content! it’s done in a way that the user themselves doesn’t even know its happening. It’s a method of limiting what the user sees, unbeknownst to the user. The only way you might become aware if you have received a shadow ban is if you notice a sudden drop in your video views. This is an indicator you might have been shadowbanned.
Bypass the TikTok ban
Use TikTok in America
If after reading this article you still can’t wait to get back to TikTok or you simply want to hide your location and sensitive data from the app. You can use a VPN, using a VPN and connecting to a country where TikTok is not banned. You can continue to enjoy your favourite Short-form video app without privacy issues. We recommend NordVPN for this issue.
To find out more about the additional advantages of NordVPN read our NordVPN review.
How does a VPN protect privacy?
When you send information online, NordVPN creates a tunnel which encrypts your data. If someone gets hold of your data, they cannot read it. The tunnel makes it harder to hack, although hacking is still possible; it is just a little harder.
The VPN adds a new server. This means for you, if you go on the internet and search for a particular website, your information goes first to VPN server and from there to the website e.g. to Facebook which keeps your data secure.
When you connect to a VPN server for all intents and purposes, you appear to be connecting from the location in the chosen country.