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What can we learn from the TikTok ban?

Recently, we’ve seen a lot of banning, boycotting, and abandoning of tech and social platforms. The reasons for this? Well, it’s a mixture of politics, brand safety and data privacy. The most recent app to lose out due to this is TikTok.

Back in June, India’s government banned TikTok as well as another 58 Chinese-made apps. They stated the ban was due to these apps being “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order“. And now there’s talk from the US that they may also look to ban TikTok, initially on government devices. The Guardian wrote an article on the 15th July stating Australia were also considering banning it, with Australian politicians claiming the app was providing user data back to the Chinese government.

But how dangerous is TikTok? Should the UK and other countries also be looking at banning the app?

At the end of the day, TikTok is a social platform. And unfortunately, with any social platform, the issue of data privacy is front and centre. TikTok captures user data whenever the app is used, and this data can say a lot about a person. It feels intrusive doesn’t it? However, other social and tech platforms like Facebook also do this. This doesn’t mean that you’re being spied on or your data is being sent to the Chinese government.

An article in Forbes makes a very good point: whilst the data it collects about you may not necessarily pose a significant risk to you as an individual, it could pose a serious risk to society, and we know social platforms can be used to push propaganda.

ARM viewpoint

So, what does this mean for our clients? Social and tech platforms, for a lot of businesses, are key to their success in driving new customers. Whilst TikTok is growing fast in the UK and other markets, it’s still a relatively small player compared to the main advertising giants. For most of our clients, TikTok being banned in their markets would have little to no impact on their business.

However, if the likes of TikTok can get banned, when its user base globally has grown significantly, what’s to stop the likes of Facebook or Google being banned in key markets in the future? It’s very unlikely, although as technology advances we don’t know what the risk will be in years to come. Some of the tech giants out there could make huge mistakes in data privacy or become so tightly regulated that even that could pose a risk.

My advice to businesses, especially SMBs, is to try to not solely rely on just one or two of these platforms to drive your business. If one of these platforms were to be taken down, it could mean a large drop in revenue. Also, ensure if you are using these platforms that your brand safety is as tight as possible. Ultimately, work on building brand loyalty and awareness. Be the brand that a user wants to use, not the brand a user only sees on TikTok and mindlessly purchases.

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