TikTok, for the intersection of people who read knapsack and yet somehow don’t know what TikTok is, is an app for short video creation, with tools for superimposed video, quit cutscenes, and basically fun dances, social commentary, or comedy. They’re headquartered in China, with a US division. And, in case you haven’t heard, are under threat of being banned, or acquired.
Why? Because they grab a lot of user data, and their code (as uncovered by Jane Manchum Wong) really resists investigation into what they grab.
Unfortunately, TikTok has become deeply rooted in pop culture— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) June 28, 2020
People will not listen even if it is a privacy risk. If it brings them joy, if it's hip, if it makes brands money, they won't care https://t.co/vFErXAecWx
(by innocent I mean the way how users treated them at the beginning)— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) June 29, 2020
Where we’re at so far:
- The US government wants to ban TikTok.
- Microsoft has expressed interest in buying the US part of TikTok. (In the UK, TikTok will be the Chinese TikTok. Only US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand seem to be going to MS. This is interesting in that it doesn’t fully bring in the ‘5 eyes’ US intelligence partners.)
- Apple denies vigorously that they have no interest in buying TikTok, although many people seem to have said they did.
Update: Apple denies that it is interested in acquiring TikTok https://t.co/6mfbdVqX1a— 9to5Mac.com (@9to5mac) August 4, 2020
If Microsoft buys TikTok, they’re going to tie it into Azure. You can imagine LinkedIn working with it, Teams, and other add-ons. It doesn’t make great sense, other than, “we’d like to have a lot of the kids using our stuff.”
If Apple were to buy it (and they say they aren’t), it would be a privacy play. Apple has done a historically terrible job of social media networks, whether it was Ping, or the ‘messages with artists’ that was in the first launch of Apple Music. While the privacy guarantees would be great, it’s just unlikely. Apple would use it the way they use iMessage or Apple Music – a tool to try and move people to Apple platforms.
Byte, by the founders of Vine, the original 6 second videos, have been shit-posting, “what if Byte bought Microsoft?” – which also isn’t happening, but is a good reminder that Byte exists.
What do you do if you want to keep using TikTok?
VPN. A VPN (virtual private network) establishes a tunnel between your device and an endpoint somewhere else in the world. That’s it. To the sites or services you use, it looks as if you’re coming from that region of the world.
Want Friends, but it’s on HBOMax in the US, and you have Netflix? A VPN with an endpoint in the UK would let you keep watching it while using your phone or computer in the US. (Streaming boxes like Roku or AppleTV are a little more difficult.)
The same story applies. You could use a VPN to get around a regional ban on an app.
This presumes that there aren’t VPN logs that could be used against a user, which isn’t exactly a safe presumption. Many VPN providers say they don’t keep logs, but I would tell you, consider your activity online as if someone, somewhere, had a record of it.
Who to use as a VPN provider? ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PIA or Disconnect.me. There are other popular ones, but these are the few I’ve had the chance to use. Also good, is the one built into Opera Browser.