TikTok cybersecurity threat - girl poses in front of camera

Is TikTok a cybersecurity threat? It depends.

Whenever people say TikTok is a cybersecurity threat, you just wanna go for the deep ends. The last time I blogged, just like the Titanic meme, it was many years ago. I mean, imagine if you needed to wait for my next blog so you had something to do. That would be a bummer, wouldn’t it? I was proud of how I finished my text. But let me tell the joke: instead of a deep ending, I could invest in a deep beginning, and so I’d start talking about, I don’t know, Mariana’s web. Oh shit, that’s a spoiler. Alright, the philosophy of Kant, baby voice version! Here it goes.

This thumbnail shows Kant’s philosophy as a “no gray areas” kind of thing. As this (brilliant) content producer puts it, the author says “what is right is right, what is wrong is wrong, period”. Thanks to Maria Popova, who runs one of the most brilliant blogs in the world, now called The Marginalian, I found out about this video. My thing is whenever I think of a historical writer, I Google Maria’s blog to see if she’s written about it. She always has. And that happens to be a short version of something dense.

So you find that people have been there before you. But what are you talking about? The list of surprises in my childhood vary so much. When I was about 4, I think I saw my dad’s dick. I was 6, I broke my finger. By the time I was 9, someone at school asked me to translate “fish”, “ball” and “cat”, but in Portuguese. Here you go, geeks (or people who never got out of 3rd grade; you never know): those three words translated, in my first language, sound like I’m saying “I just sucked dick”.

Now, is that funny? Yes. It is. So you’d probably see this all over TikTok. And that is the appeal. We care less about children saying the word “dick” than we care about our kids being happy. So we let this one slide. Alright, kid: laugh about the blowjob joke. But what kind of blowjob? Have you actually scrolled TikTok?

This blog has written about the concerns of the competition. That’s what people don’t seem to get. TikTok in Brazil has people saying (to be honest, that was years ago) that teenagers liked to fuck “the brothers in the faction”, and then you saw 14 year olds tease their tiny tits on a top and jiggle their butts on camera at the sound of a videogame gun loading. Is that okay, Bolsonaro?

Why is TikTok a government issue?

I don’t know what the guy thought about that. In fact, in terms of media, we might be about to see what happens. What most people say about TikTok is that it compresses time and relevance. People have become obsessed with the ticking clock and they want to be talking flawlessly.

That lack of imperfection is a social factor that needs to be addressed, but the companies are injecting that into teenage brains, not anyone else.

The other aspect is how messages are heavily edited and it becomes hard to follow what’s being said. It’s literally too much information. For the younger or foreign, there’s a short: “tmi” — and you can probably add the Urban Dictionary to your favorites if you haven’t, or just keep in mind it exists. It speaks very closely to tl;dr. I’ve had to navigate these terms “growing up online”, with expressions like “wdym” (“what do you mean?”) being a puzzle to me — but I always found my way around it.

A third aspect is how that’s going to play out. On the one side, you have too much information (and let’s not even talk about data); on the other, you have too little information. The videos are short by standard, just like Twitter. You see, TikTok observed Twitter for a while, but it also observed Instagram and YouTube. Then it mixed it all together, made the “best algorithm for success”, and got every teenager in the world addicted.

According to Soko Media’s Business of Apps, TikTok was expected to reach 1.8 billion users (let’s just say it will soon reach the 2 billion mark), with 3 billion downloads. That’s a lot.

So the question of whether TikTok represents a cybersecurity threat becomes relevant. What is cybersecurity anyway? 2FA? Incognito? Lock screens? Passwords with caps lock? Apparently, it’s not a password manager, and it’s not believing too much in digital money either (just in case someone needs a reminder about LastPass and FTX).

To me, this is absolutely about identity. And what I would personally point out as a cybersecurity threat is the use of biometrics. Do your own research, or maybe ask at the local bank. Hell, we ever had to do that during elections in Brazil. I didn’t. Many did.

Specifically, why is TikTok a cybersecurity threat, and not everything else?

Well, this one’s easy: the big four (Scott Galloway is my mentor) don’t like competition. As this video is from 2015, I think 8 years later we should be looking at how Meta is wasting our money. He does point out to Tumblr as a problem deal; today I strongly think Meta is guilty of fiscal irresponsibility, not in the fashion that Brazilian ousted president Dilma Rousseff was accused of, by using the Bank of Brazil’s money to buy food, but taking 87 billion dollars and investing in some virtual reality.

But why would you care about international context?

If you wanna draw a parallel, I’ll be translating from Brazil’s Veja magazine:

The accusation is that the government delayed the repayment of 3.5 billion Brazilian Real to the Bank of Brazil for the settlement with beneficiaries of the Plan of Agricultural Incentive. With that, The Bank of Brazil had to deal with the expenses from its own pocket, with a bond from the Treasury. This credit transaction, since the government ended up taking a loan from a State bank as the Bank of Brazil, is prohibited by the Law of Fiscal Responsibility. By the end if 2015, in a decision from the Federal Court of Accounts, Treasury finally settled the 72.4 billion that were still late. The main consequence: a deficit of 115 billion in the government’s budget.

Veja magazine article, June 6, 2016.

I have questions! Was it 115 billion or 72 billion? The magazine doesn’t explain the 42 billion difference in the report. What consequence? Didn’t the payment go through? If you care about finance, it’s one thing. If you care about money, it’s arguably another. Having a credit card, you pay your bills because you have a job — otherwise, you wouldn’t be having a credit card. But go say that in public today. Fintech is the future! Notice how interest rates made a 3 and a half billion loan turn into a +100 billion debt. And again, the payment went through. To whom? It’s safe to say that was the market. But it seems that people forget about that part, don’t they?

And this market build on other things. Dilma had to face, in her own way, what happened when the American government wanted to spy on the country’s communications. The result was to let them, while Americans ran their businesses we treated abusive practices as normal. But they wanna talk about TikTok? Without addressing how much money people derive from data, we’ll never get to the point.

Without addressing the role of marketing in our lives, we’ll never get to the point. Cybersecurity has a lot to do with marketing. There are many initiatives to stop companies from spying on us, the most famous being Ad Blockers, recommended by many.

But what about the young girls dancing?

I’m not here to judge, man. Are you? The girls can surely listen to some better music, but I think I barely understood the Red Hot Chilli Peppers when I was 11. And I actually liked Eminem. I’m not gonna judge the girls, and I’m not interested in supporting their little dance moves either; but you see, I’m far from being their daddy. If we’re talking about Snapchat, though, there’s much to debate.

The biggest cybersecurity threat doesn’t come from TikTok, necessarily. What we face today is companies having access to your every account, without distinction. You can’t just label an Instagram account “just for fun” without calling it “professional”. And that is far more troubling. But we might just get stuck on this idea that if there’s a tick on our cock, you might wanna get rid of it. That might be, indeed, a very serious threat. Or maybe just another blowjob joke.

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