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TikTok data collation accusations and what it means for advertisers

Following the opening of its Australia operations in June 2020, there have been several developments that pose concerns for the future of TikTok as a viable advertising channel for marketers.

One indirect issue is the wider Chinese apps ban in India, which is set to impact the TikTok global business as it reportedly lost 30% of its userbase overnight. The claimed issue behind the India ban has now reached our shores and may potentially seal the fate of the app in Australia with calls for the government to ban the video sharing platform, that being the issue of unauthorised data capture. Tik Tok has struggled with keeping brand safety breaches in check since its inception with allegations and fines being dished out in 2019, and just last week this was again highlighted with articles published globally detailing what an anonymous engineer found in his investigation along with an iOS 14 update which shows TikTok, along with several other apps, passing through clipboard data.

TikTok has a user base of more than 1.6 million Australians and is now the 4th most downloaded app globally. This emerging format should not be ignored as a potential avenue for advertising as it provides an environment for the highly engaged “Gen Z” demographic. However, much like an app end user, an advertiser should be concerned of potential owned data leakage and brand safety. Brands should be asking how their data may be used beyond insights for their own marketing purpose. For instance, if an advertiser conversion or lead is captured by TikTok for campaign targeting, there should be full assurance that the user data is not breached nor sold on to competitors.

As an agency, we will keep close to developments as they unfold. While Australian Government rulings will ultimately determine the future of this emerging channel, we will go through further rigour to ensure data security and brand safety measures are met. We will be working with our clients individually to ascertain each brand requirement. In short, watch this space.

TikTok’s full response to our request following recent privacy concerns:

In recent weeks there have been a number of claims made on the Internet about TikTok’s security practices, including some claims that were made anonymously. We take these claims seriously and are in the process of conducting a full review and have determined that many of them are inaccurate or reflect analysis of older versions of the app that in some cases are years out of date.

Our Chief Information Security Officer, Roland Cloutier, has published detailed accounts of some of the unsubstantiated accusations against TikTok. As part of our overall approach to security, our information security team runs a continuous process to check for security vulnerabilities and fix them. We include world-class security firms in these assessments.

TikTok is committed to respecting the privacy of our users and being transparent with our community and security experts about how our app works. We are constantly striving to stay ahead of evolving security challenges, and we encourage our users to use the latest version of TikTok so that they can enjoy the best experience possible.

For accusation that it is a tool of the Chinese government:

TikTok is owned by global investors, and has a management team that is based throughout the world in the markets where the app is available. TikTok is not available in China, and we do not provide TikTok user data to the Chinese government and would not do so if asked.

For further information please see below blog post from Roland Cloutier


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