The commodity that’s just possibly China’s most popular export du jour continues to sail right through global borders with very few giving it a second thought.
And why not? The Tik Tok app is all about fun in 15-second bursts.
This means fun for ByteDance, too, which is the company that created and owns it. With their app’s success, its current valuation is hovering around $75billion, clearly making ByteDance one of the largest private tech firms in the world.
As a ubiquitous platform riding the trending wave, Tik Tok’s next overt objective will be turbo-charging its monetization, mostly via ads and content creators who can generate a following.
This is the activity that’s becoming a concern with Tik Tok, as there’s more to the app than being a mere purveyor of cuteness.
First and foremost, ByteDance doesn’t refer to itself as an entertainment enterprise. Instead, it’s into gathering as much data as possible for the purpose of conducting endlessly refined analyses and programing a reaction.
Ostensibly, this helps the app tailor the content it shows to each user according to personal preference as inferred by that user’s ultra-harvested data. Of course, the American Big Tech juggernauts also do this to varying degrees, but there’s a subtle distinction that looms over this platform.
Here’s how the New York Times describes Tik Tok:
Apparently you just … show [users] things and let a powerful artificial intelligence take notes.
Being real, that is what an AI company does, and that’s what ByteDance openly says it is. No facade whatsoever.
Since being busted for hacking kids’ data, ByteDance has claimed to tighten its privacy policies. However, as history has shown again and again, words can be cheap when a political machine in power is strong.
And therein lies the distinction.
Having run afoul of the Chinese government once — resulting in some of its other popular apps being shut down — the company has had its shot across the bow. Who really believes now that if government agents come calling, ByteDance is gonna refuse to accommodate them?
This Christmas, give the TikTok user in your life the gift of knowledge. (Data stored in China is at the disposal of the government.) https://t.co/wnHYHkodEt pic.twitter.com/vLg4VPxetH
— David Carroll (@profcarroll) December 24, 2018
Sometimes, though, those factors can be the equivalent of a double-edged sword, and Tik Tok appears to be a prime example of wielding the cutting edge of both sides.
And doing it in broad daylight.
It’s inevitable that in the not-too-distant future, online entrepreneurs are gonna be subjected to a rash of offers claiming to show them how to profit from Tik Tok. That’s par for the course in this business.
However, this time, they’d be well-advised to understand who they might also be dealing with and the stakes involved.