Every year, media planners are faced with the challenge of balancing pinpointed, targeted ads to consumers and respecting the need for consumers’ right to transparency, privacy and security. In an era when data breaches seem to be happening left and right, it only makes sense that consumers are losing trust in the companies they once freely shared their personal data with.
Now, insert TikTok: the wildly popular social media site with over 150 million American users. It seems like a no-brainer for just about any paid media plan targeting an audience from 18-55. But the big elephant in the room is who exactly owns TikTok and what exactly they’re doing with all that data they’re collecting from all those American users.
TikTok is a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese technology firm ByteDance Ltd. A few weeks ago, it looked like the company’s days in America were numbered. But it seems that even a united Washington may not have the regulatory and legal powers to wipe TikTok off American phones. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that the U.S. government wants to remove TikTok from American phones, but unlike the first failed attempt by former President Trump in 2020, TikTok and its parent company ByteDance Ltd. are now bigger and stronger than they were three years ago.
TikTok has been in negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a U.S. multiagency panel that is aiming to safeguard national security.
Here are some details from TikTok’s CFIUS agreement:
- TikTok formally created a U.S. Data Security (USDS) division in May 2022 to manage all aspects of the TikTok platform in the U.S. with respect to data controls and platform integrity.
- In June 2022, TikTok announced that 100% of all U.S. user traffic was being routed to a secure environment in the Oracle Cloud infrastructure, rather than to TikTok’s servers in Virginia and Singapore. At the time of the announcement, TikTok announced that they would eventually be deleting backups of historical data from those TikTok servers. That process is now underway.
- In August 2022, TikTok confirmed that they had followed up on a commitment first revealed in a letter to a group of U.S. senators in June: that Oracle had begun reviewing the TikTok source code that powers their recommendation engine – the For You Feed – and their automated content moderation tools.
- In December 2022, TikTok announced that a branch of their Global Trust and Safety team had moved under their USDS division so that content moderation requiring access to U.S. user data would only take place in the protected data enclave set up in the Oracle Cloud.
You can use this link https://usds.tiktok.com/ for more real-time updates around data security.
So as a media planner looking to advertise to those 150 million American users on one of the most popular social media sites, what are you going to do? Do you take the risk, place the buy and be in front of your audience when your competitors may shy away? do you take the safe route and keep your media dollars in the tried-and-true and “safer” social media platforms? If you are looking for a cost-effective way to engage with your audience and potentially “go viral” on one of the most popular social media platforms, I think in 2023 the risk is worth it.