TikTok privacy and security concerns – Should you use this app?

Abeerah Hashim Last updated: February 28, 2023 Read time: 31 minutes Disclosure

TikTok has faced numerous allegations and bans regarding poor data privacy and user security. Yet it remains popular among the masses.

Sneak peek at TikTok privacy and security

TikTok is a disruptive entrant in the social media realm that quickly gained popularity owing to its user-friendliness, easy accessibility, and creative content. However, the app’s Chinese ownership and potential data mishandling raised concerns about its safety for users – especially youngsters. While the app has significantly improved its practices, whether or not you should use TikTok remains a critical decision, which you can take only after knowing its potential privacy risks.

Does TikTok function like other social media platforms, or is it spyware? Should it be banned? Recently, TikTok has elicited much debate about online privacy and security for users. So we did extensive research to get to the bottom of it.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight answer like headlines and politicians put it. For example, the video-sharing platform is as dangerous to the average person as any other app. However, sometimes you should avoid the app because of the possibility of government interference and complicated Chinese laws.

Besides discussing TikTok’s potential as a spy tool, we’ll also delve into other possible dangers. For example, because of its immense popularity, it has the potential to spread propaganda or censor information.

Much of the hype TikTok has received is overblown and doesn’t address the real issue. So, read on to know if you should continue using TikTok or whether the calls for a TikTok ban or sale are valid. 

What is TikTok?

The social media app allows users to create short-form videos, typically lasting up to 60 seconds. It has become popular for the freedom of creating a variety of videos. You can create and share videos on various topics, from dance and music videos to comedic skits and political commentary. 

TikTok was launched in China in 2016 under its parent company Douyin. It was later released internationally as TikTok in 2017. The app belongs to ByteDance, a Chinese tech company that became a valuable start-up worldwide. In 2020, TikTok surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide, making it one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the century.

The app has been downloaded over 165 million times in the United States alone, translating to over 40 million active users per month. Worldwide, TikTok hosts over 1 billion, monthly active users. In comparison, social media giants like Facebook have over 2.5 billion, and Instagram has 1+ billion monthly active users, respectively.

However, the key difference is the rate of growth. TikTok has hit the numbers faster than any other social media app. It changed how people became interested in social media apps.

As of 2022, TikTok’s monthly active users compared as follows with other top 6 social media platforms:

  • Facebook – 2.94 billion users
  • YouTube – 2.56 billion users
  • WhatsApp – 2.24 billion users
  • Instagram – 2 billion users
  • WeChat – 1.225 billion users
  • Messenger – 1.3 billion users

Prominent players in the industry have noted the constant growth rate of TikTok. For example, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, admitted worrying about TikTok’s “huge” growth strategy that potentially threatened Facebook.

They’re huge, they’re growing really quickly, they’ve gotten to bigger numbers faster than we ever did… Of course we worry about it.

Source: Business Insider

Despite the CEO of TikTok being an American, the app has its roots in China under its parent company, Douyin. The association with China is what has brought controversies around the app.

Several countries have banned or blocked TikTok due to national security, privacy, and inappropriate content concerns. In some cases, bans have been lifted following the platform’s response to government concerns. However, in other cases, bans remain in place, and users in those countries cannot access the app.

Allegations and bans made against TikTok?

In 2018, TikTok faced various allegations for its ownership by a Chinese company and its ties to the Chinese Government. Some individuals claim that the app has been used to spread sexual content and promote blasphemy

In 2019, various countries and organizations expressed serious concerns about the app. These concerns especially highlighted issues pertaining to propaganda and censorship, data collection controversies, and security issues. Some of the most notable actions against TikTok include:


October 9, 2019