TikTok is a video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing, China, based internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming.
It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos. The application allows users to create short music and lip-sync videos of 3 to 15 seconds and short looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds.
The app is incredibly popular in the United States, and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has been a go-to activity for kids and adults alike.
On Monday, July 6th, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States is looking into banning multiple Chinese social media applications. Part of the rationale is limiting data and private information sharing with China. Pompeo said, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
TikTok became available in the United States when it merged with a competitor and US-based application, musical.ly.
A TikTok spokesperson denied this in a statement, saying in part, “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US.”
However, many security analysts have concerns. A group of researchers at Penetrum found vulnerabilities that could allow TikTok to upload malware on the user’s device.
Jeremy Straub, associate director of the Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research at NDSU, said, “The fact that people are intentionally sharing this user captured the content of themselves and others makes it where the sky is the limit on what types of information may be out there on the surface,”
Also, Straub said TikTok’s terms of service agreements are broad and the user gives the company permission to do virtually anything with the content posted there.
He also noted that the service agreement is not much different from popular US-based companies like Facebook and Twitter. He also added, TikTok users should not panic, as there has been no specific threat found within the app or a breach to its users.
TikTok is very popular within the highly coveted 12-18 demographic.