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TikTok Just Does What Its US Competitors Have Done For Long

The Chinese are coming. Beware! The Trump government is warning everybody against digital services like TikTok, because it is, he says, stealing American data. What he does not say is that he and American big tech are deeply worried about the rising competition from China. And that TikTok is mainly doing what most of the ‘free’ US services do: Take data as payment for ‘free’ and make the users addicted, so they pay with more data. That is why parents should treat TikTok, SnapChat, Instragram and all social media as public platforms and learn to act accordingly.

Different European data protection authorities, including the Danish has decided on its own to look into Tiktok and if they comply with GDPR. That is a really good idea, as there is no doubt that TikTok is sucking up data like a vampyre sucking up blood. The absurd theatre in this is that the data authorities really can’t do the same with other data vampyre such as the American, because they have their European headquarter in Ireland and thus the overburdened Irish DPA is responsible. After the Danish authority decided to look at TikTok, TikToks owner decided to establish a European headquater in Ireland, so they could not have taken up the case today.

TikTok is videos where users mimick the singing. Photo: Amanda Vick,

TikTok not only does the same as its American competitors when it comes to placing it headquarther where the taxes are unfairly low and the DPA in no way has shown its worth in making companies comply with the GDPR.

Here are some of the other ways they are similar.

1) You have to be 13 years old to be n TikTok – just like when you want to join Snapchat, Youtube and Instagram. Originally, it is due to the American law COPPA, who forbids collection on data on kids and then use it to personalise content, as they are too easy to manipulate with.

2) You can easily lie about your age and join TikTok just like you can onSnapchat, Youtube and Instagram. None of them have a parent consent management system (like for example LEGO has) as they have to be 13 years old, right. Thus, TikTok and all the others use data about kids as if they were 13+.

3) Tiktok was fined this spring in the US for having accepted children under 13 on their platform. They got a fine of $5.7 million.  But the year before Youtube got a much larger fine of men Youtube of $170 million for having hosted lots of content directly aimed a children under 13.

4) TikTok is ‘free’ like Snapchat, Youtube and Instagram. A business model that the Youtube owner Google invented. There kids and other users pay – blindfolded – with their data to use the service. They have not idea how small or big a price they pay, as they don’t what their data is worth for the black-boxed platforms.

5) TikTok is addictive. A trend dominant in Silicon Valley for year. The mantra was to make users addicted to their service. SnapChat is one of the really bad guys with Streaks, where kids are dependent on checking their streak regularly in order not for the streak to disappear.

And I could continue. Like the data dictatorship China, who often forbids Western services, now Trump want to forbid TikTok. Thus both Microsoft and Oracle have been having talk with TikTok about buying the US part of the service. TikTok’s owner, Tencent, has said that it will remain in the US whatever happens, and has announced it will sue the government, if the ban is implemented. TikTok is said to have 165 million downloads in the US (out of a total of 2 billion).

The difference between TikTok and the US services is that with TikTok the Chinese government might have a backdoor to your dath (that is what we are told by the US government, and with US service, the US government might have a backdoor (that is what Snowden revealed in 2013).  Both the US and the Chines companies claim that this is not the case.

What Can You do?

As parents and teachers of children, what can you do re TikTok, Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat?

  1. Keep them away as long as possible. Work together in classes. The closer they get to 13 before they join, the better. Parents and teachers must also join the services to understand what is going on there. And be with them if they join them, before they are ready.
  2. Teach them to be a publicity. Even though many services have so-called privacy-settings, the services are still collecting data and knowledge about the kids in order to profile them and sell access to the. Kids and everybody else should keep the real private stuff away from those big platforms and use e.g. Wire og Signal for private communications. On the big platforms they should ask themselves before posting or liking anything: Is it okay that everybody knows this?
  3. Give them a nickname, a pseudonym, so they don’t ruin their real name with silly videos that stick to them forever and they might regret later. Explain to them that they should not use another name to cheat on people (that is what criminals do) but to protect themselves and their true identity. And that they always have to tell the friends they know in real life, about their identity online, if they engage online.
  4. Put a VPN on their gadgets. It can prevent hacking and even better; you can hide their location. Location data is worth a lot.

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