TikTok will allow advertisers to generate ads in the app and on other sites based on users’ activity, starting with tests in East Asia, report reveals
- Tik Tok said it will start a local ad network to target users across the web
- It will now allow advertisers to use TikTok data to target users in other apps
- The company started to roll out habit-tracking tools in June
- Skeptics fear that the China-based company could expose people’s data
A trove of developer documents reveal that TikTok is looking to monetize its millions of users in Asia and potentially the US by offering up their web habits to advertisers.
AdWeek reports that the company will start up a local network for advertisers that allows parties to target TikTok users both outside of the app.
In other words, your behavior on TikTok, including the videos you watch and like, will now follow you into other apps where it can be used to serve targeted ads. For now, the test will be rolled out only in east Asia.
TikTok reportedly started to roll out tools like tracking pixels, which aggregate data on user habits and conversions — i.e. what people click on or disregard — in June.
TikTok will look to monetize its droves of users by selling their data to advertisers and monitoring they’re habits across apps. File photo
According to sources interviewed in AdWeek, while the test will start in Asia — ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is based in Beijing — it could be a sign of what’s to come for TikTok patrons in the US.
Though mega-companies like Facebook and Snapchat already use similar methods to leverage and sell their users’ data, skeptics of TikTok have pointed out that data collected by the company would, instead of staying in the US, be funneled abroad to China.
According to American Professor David Carrol, who took on the big data company, Cambridge Analytica, after they illegally used the data of 80 million Facebook users to help elect US President Donald Trump, TikTok could be next incarnation of the ground-breaking scandal.
TikTok isn’t currently being accused of committing any data-related crimes or spying on behalf of the Chinese government, but Carrol points out that the potential is still there — especially in light of the fact that TikTok reached a whopping 667 million global downloads last year.
‘If the cataclysmic Cambridge Analytica scandal taught us anything, it was that some of the secrets of the data trade wars are buried in the fine print that no one reads,’ wrote Carrol in a Quartz investigation this May.
TikTok has had real impacts on cultural trends in the years since its launch. For example, ‘Old Town Road,’ formerly the number one song in the world, picked up steam on TikTok
‘If lawmakers on Capitol Hill knew that their children’s TikTok data may have been flowing right into China, I bet they’d worry about it as much as I do.’
In the US, similarly influential Chinese companies have already started to hit guardrails imposed by skeptical lawmakers, including smartphone giant Huawei.
The company has been accused of spying on users in the US and abroad at the behest of the Chinese government.
The wireless infrastructure and phone manufacturer was blacklisted this year amid an increasingly heated trade war between the US and China. That conflict has continually alluded resolution.
What is Tik Tok?
Tik Tok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions.
Tik Tok’s tagline is ‘Make every second count’.
It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.
TikTok is known in China as Douyin where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available around the world in 2017.
Douyin is still the version of the app used in China, available to download separately to TikTok.
Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app Musical.ly, also with headquarters in China.
Most children use the app to film themselves lip-syncing to chart hits.
It offers users a raft if colourful modification and editing tools including overlaying music, sound, animated stickers, filters and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos.
The Beijing based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $75 billion (£58 billion)