By Nadia Urbina, Feb. 22, 2022
Any time I use a website or download an app, a notification pops up asking if I want my activity tracked. No matter the option I choose, I know my information such as my likes, preferences and habits on the internet are being tracked.
I never think about the crumbs of information I leave behind especially when I spend most of my time online using social media and not on some shady website asking me my social security number or my billing information. In honesty, the positives outweigh the negatives, so the risk is worth it for me.
TikTok, one of many social media apps I use, has taken over my life since I first downloaded it at the beginning of the pandemic out of sheer boredom. I fought the urge to download the app earlier because my idea of TikTok was that it was an app solely meant to post cringe dance videos to.
It’s almost impossible to describe the various types of content that can be found on TikTok. The app has an entrancing algorithm that knows you better than you know yourself. I cannot count the number of times I have told myself that I will give myself a five-minute break from a task and watch one or two videos. The results are always the same: “One more video” or “two more minutes.” A five-minute break using the app can easily turn into an hour once I am immersed in what I am watching.
TikTok was launched in 2016 by Chinese startup company ByteDance and quickly gained traction worldwide with its enticing 60 second to three-minute videos that showcase humors to informational videos. With billions of downloads, millions of videos uploaded daily and viral sounds, it’s hard not fall into a deep bottomless hole of entertainment once you partake in what the app offers.
I knew my usage of the app was a problem not because of the battery report that said I’ve used TikTok for roughly 23 hours in the past 10 days, but because of the fact that I can’t go a day without using the app. I tried deleting the app, but my thoughts always told me otherwise.
What if my friends direct-messaged me a TikTok and I didn’t reply? What if there was a new trend happening that I would miss out on?
My addiction is so bad that I found myself scrolling through videos while being on Zoom for class. Being back to in-person classes is one of the main reasons my activity report is down to only five hours in the past 10 days.
As I scrolled through Twitter, an app I am glad to say I use a reasonable amount, a recent CNBC article sparked my interest for its title, “TikTok shares your data more than any other social media app — and it’s unclear where it goes, study says.”
The information in the article outlined that TikTok allows third-party trackers to collect my data, which concerned me.
The information it gathers doesn’t surprise me. How else would social media apps know how to reel me in, how to keep me coming back and, specifically, how it will know what to advertise to me? It’s no secret everyone is tracked online, so what’s the harm in having third-parties track me of all people?
With data collection, a clear picture of who I am, what I do and where I do it is revealed. According to The Internet Health Report and HP.com, third-party tracking has no impact on user experience. The tracking is only relevant to what my online behavior is, and it’s mostly used for advertising.
The CNBC article shared that it’s impossible to know who these third-party trackers are, what they’re doing with my data and what specifically they are collecting.
Will this revelation be my wake-up call or at least hinder my use of the app?
Honestly, no. Based on the conversations I’ve had with people I know are just as obsessed with the app as I am, I can say that I am not alone in this decision. It’s not the strong grip the app has on me, but it’s the fact that I’ve accepted that there is no getting around data collecting no matter what. Deleting this app won’t stop the other social media platforms, the websites I use or even the university’s own website from collecting my data.
What I can do is take cautionary steps when keeping my information safe from cybercriminals and keep my fingers crossed or knock on wood that I don’t come across unknown credit cards under my name or receive a notice that my identity has been stolen.
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