TikTok: Fun, Addictive…And Unsafe


Emily Martinez-Esqueda, Staff Writer

It’s fun. It’s addictive. But, is it safe?

TikTok, a short-form video platform, has become increasingly popular over the last five years. It attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, who watch everything from crazy dance moves to political commentaries. But, while viewers are watching TikTok, TikTok is apparently watching its viewers.

Originally called Musical.ly, it was sold to a Beijing-based Chinese company ByteDance in November 2017, changing the name to TikTok. For the past two years, the popular platform has been accused of being a threat to national security for its pervasive data mining. On the surface, it appears to be an app for sharing videos, but it functions as a surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data without the viewer even being aware of the content it is gathering from the device being used to access TikTok. It goes well beyond simple name, address, and telephone number. Many users are unwittingly handing over more private data: Social Security number, bank account information, credit card information, and so much more. And, once TikTok has leached on to that information, there is no way of undoing the unforeseeable damage. All of this is addition to the conspiracy of committing bank fraud charges being looked into, as well. 

As a result, some members of Congress are suggesting a nationwide ban on TikTok–following in the footsteps of India, which has already banned it. Roughly 19 states in the U.S. have some form of a ban on TikTok already, with Louisiana and West Virginia joining in that number this past week. Most of the bans, however, are strictly on government-issued devices only–not on personal devices. Some suggest that other government-funded organizations–such as public schools–will be the next to join in on that ban.

“I think it’s bittersweet,” says Dara Chavez, a senior, sharing her opinion on TikTok being banned. “We have 15-second videos that somehow relate to people from all over the world.” Continuing, she adds, “But, overall, it is starting to become a time-consuming addition!”

The question now is this: Should the U.S. join India by banning TikTok altogether? The only answer known for certain is that doing so would definitely create major withdrawal symptoms for a TikTok-addicted nation.