We just can’t catch a break in 2020.
Following the implementation of controversial security law in Hong Kong earlier this month, TikTok announced it would cease activity in the region, withdrawing the app from stores and leaving the market indefinitely. The short-form video app was also banned in India on June 29th, along with 58 other Chinese apps, in an effort to prevent the Chinese government from transmitting users’ data outside of India.
Security concerns surrounding TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, have been circulating for some time. And while the app is still available across Western regions, many fear its only a matter of time before the internet giant gets banned in countries such as the U.S. and Australia. Leaders in both countries have recently expressed privacy concerns about the app.
Is TikTok a cause for concern?
The jury’s out on this. While there’s whispers that TikTok shares user information with the Chinese Communist Party, representatives for the app in America and Australia have continually denied these claims.
On the flipside, TikTok does collect an abundance of user data, including personal information, photos, and video content. However, there is little evidence beyond hearsay that it collects more than the average social media platform.
How does TikTok collect data?
TikTok collects user data through a variety of mediums, including profile details, surveys, and competitions. It also collects technical information from users’ phones, which may be sent to third-party organisations for the purposes of targeted advertising.
Many were alarmed back in June when Apple “caught” TikTok secretly spying on users via their iPhone clipboard.
None of these avenues, including inadvertent clipboard access, are unique to TikTok.
So, what will happen if TikTok gets banned?
While nothing can truly replicate TikTok’s impact on the viral zeitgeist, there are a few alternatives that users can look forward to.
In late-June, Instagram announced its latest development, Instagram Reels— an in-app video function that allows users to film, edit, and upload 15-second clips set to songs, voiceovers, or original sounds. IG Reels can be posted to stories, sent privately via DM, or uploaded to a new “Reels” tab. Basically, embed TikTok into Instagram and you have IG Reels.
Instagram Reels is currently being trialed in India and became available just days after India’s TikTok ban.
But for those who prefer their TikTok-esque content to remain on a completely separate app, there’s always Vine’s successor, Byte. Byte, which launched earlier this year, was developed by Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann. Like Vine, Byte allows creators to upload videos up to 6-seconds long, which play on repeat like a Boomerang.
Very short-form content is appealing for Vine-lovers who felt the 6-second limitation forced creators to think outside of the box, resulting in content that was more creative and unique than what we see on any other platform today, including TikTok.
According to The New York Times, alt TikTok has already started migrating to Byte. We can’t help but wonder— is this the beginning of the end for TikTok?