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In 2019, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance lined up with other US technology giants and published the number of government demands for user data and takedown requests by releasing its own numbers.

This was the Chinese firm’s first attempt at US data privacy laws appeasement. It was met with scepticism.

In its second and most recent transparency report, published 9th July 2020, TikTok said it received 500 total legal demands, including emergency requests, from governments in the first half of the year, up 67% on the previous half (Techcrunch 2020).

What data is collected?

Let’s make two things clear: much of TikTok’s data collection is largely comparable to other consumer tech giants. However, as with many technology companies, we do not know the true extent of their data practices and processes.

That being said, TikTok has developed a bit of a murky reputation when it comes to data, with governments & organisations around the world banning or threatening to ban the platform.

So, officially, just what are some of these data collection practices that have got everyone so riled up? Well, we don’t know the full extent. However, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office – a privacy watchdog – is currently investigating the app for UK consumers, of which we expect a report later in 2020.

We do know that some of the data collection practices that have got western governments investigating the app further include:

    1. Users’ phone hardware
    2. The apps on the users’ phone
    3. IP addresses
    4. Wi-Fi access names
    5. Keystroke rhythmic patterns

Doesn’t sound all too different to Instagram or Facebook, right? Well, whilst much of the data collected is similar to other western tech giants, their algorithms and processes are less known to western regulators and investors.

This is all also, of course, heavily politically charged, with all eyes on China and its history of data-privacy issues and friction experienced when Chinese firms operate in the western markets.

In an attempt to clean up their image and continue with western market download-domination, the company appointed ex Disney executive Kevin Mayer as their CEO (who has since resigned) and have set up an HQ in Los Angeles. They have 400 US employees including their US General Manager, Vanessa Pappas (ex YouTube).


What does this mean for you?

Users continue to opt-in their data and download in their droves. TikTok is on course to its first billion users worldwide, with 8 million users in the UK and 76% of those under 21.

At the same time, various national watchdogs around the western world begin their investigation into the companies’ data practices and processes, with France being the latest, so it truly is an interesting and evolving opportunity, with early-adopter marketers continuing to win and occupy significant brand market share with Gen-Z’s, for a fraction of the cost of other social platforms.

How does this comply with GDPR? We don’t know. Until the completion and release of the various data compliance investigations going on around the world, we wait with bated breath. But, in the short-term, we continue to explore the platform for our clients.

Is TikTok right for your marketing?

If you’re looking to reach Gen Z, then TikTok is the most powerful social channel with regard to engagement & advertising opportunities, offering greater organic reach, greater on-site engagement than its competitors, and CPC’s ten times lower than Instagram. This makes TikTok one of the hottest channels to gain a share of voice quickly and cheaply.

However, it is an absolute necessity to ensure the platform aligns with your company & customer’s values. If you feel that TikTok’s practices don’t sit well with your brand, other social media platforms continue to innovate, like Instagram and their new feature Reels, which is seen as a direct competitor to TikTok.

We believe that TikTok won’t be going away anytime soon. App downloads continue to increase, usage continues to increase, and there look to be ways around the potential ban in the United States; and with incredibly low CPCs and CPMs, and high CTRs in comparison to Instagram, it really is a perfect opportunity to reach your target audience and experiment, both organically and paid.

Want to learn more?

If you need a hand planning your TikTok marketing strategy or you’re ready to get TikTokin’ and go viral, then get in touch, we’d love to help!

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