Business March 7, 2023
TikTok Collecting Similar Data to Meta, Twitter, Snap
Video-sharing platform TikTok has faced ongoing restrictions in Western countries – and the trend seems set to continue.
Owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, TikTok has been accused of posing a threat to privacy, collecting users’ information and handing it to the Chinese government. However, the tech editor at Yahoo Finance, Daniel Howley, has stated it’s the same as other social-media apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat.
“TikTok is collecting similar data to Meta, Twitter, Snap. We frequently talk about these kinds of groups of bots that are found, spreading propaganda — that can be an issue on TikTok, but it already is on Meta,” said Howley.
Propaganda could be the issue on TikTok, but the collecting of the data is already rife on Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The Chinese firm has repeatedly denied allegations that it is provided data to the country’s Communist Party.
Also Read: Lawsuit Filed Against Meta, Snap, TikTok for Mental Health Crisis
Australian user data is ‘accessible’ in China
Despite repeated denials from ByteDance and TikTok, the data of Australian users is accessible in China, according to Sky News Australia.
Shadow Cyber Security Minister James Paterson said that TikTok has admitted to him through correspondence that user data from Australia is accessible and has been accessed in mainland China.
Last July, James Paterson notified the Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security, Clare O’Neil, that TikTok had confirmed to him via correspondence that user data from Australia could be accessed, and indeed had been accessed, in mainland China. He promptly passed this information to the relevant minister.
Paterson says “nothing has happened in the eight months” since he informed the minister.
“What we’ve also had in the meantime is an admission from TikTok that they used their application to spy on a journalist in the United States who had been writing critical articles about them to try and physically co-locate them with TikTok employees to identify those journalist sources,” said Paterson.
Paterson believes all social media apps headquartered in authoritarian countries pose a degree of risk.
TikTok restricted in government devices in Denmark
The list of restrictions is rapidly growing, as it seems that a new government blocks Byte Dance’s ubiquitous social media app each day.
The Center for Cyber Security (CFCS) recommended on February 24, 2023, that the Department of Defense in Denmark prohibit its employees from using TikTok on serviceable devices. Consequently, the department has decided to implement the ban.
The Department of Defense Group has elected to go beyond the CFCS’s recommendation and prohibit its use on serviceable devices due to significant security concerns within the Ministry of Defense Group.
EU institutions have banned TikTok from employees' work devices, following a similar move by the US. Why are governments so concerned about the Chinese-owned app? pic.twitter.com/7qFheJlhEO
— DW News (@dwnews) March 7, 2023
“All employees in the Ministry of Defense are informed of the decision and are required to uninstall TikTok on service telephones and other serviceable units as soon as possible, if previously installed,” stated the Ministry.
Germany has also blocked officials from downloading TikTok, joining the list of countries that have banned the app.
ByteDance launched the platform five years ago into the global market. With approximately 1.5 billion regular users, it is especially popular among teenagers and younger adults.
Europol Sounds Alarm on ChatGPT in New Report
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) is warning that criminals are already bending ChatGPT to nefarious purposes.
The report titled ChatGPT: The impact of Large Language Models on Law Enforcement was released by the agency on Monday. It details a myriad of ways that ChatGPT can be turned into criminality. The agency has criminal use cases of ChatGPT
The criminal university
One of the concerns of Europol is that ChatGPT and other bots can speed up the process of a criminal’s education.
“If a potential criminal knows nothing about a particular crime area, ChatGPT can speed up the research process significantly by offering key information that can then be further explored in subsequent steps,” says the crime enforcement agency.
“While all of the information ChatGPT provides is freely available on the internet, the possibility to use the model to provide specific steps by asking contextual questions means it is significantly easier for malicious actors to better understand and subsequently carry out various types of crime,” they add.
Europol cites burglary, terrorism, cybercrime, and child sexual abuse as potential areas of exploration. These identified use cases emerged from workshops and research carried out by the agency.
The social engineer’s friend
Europol also reports that ChatGPT is an “extremely useful tool for phishing purposes.”
In particular, Europol has concerns that with the aid of ChatGPT, scammers’ deceptive communications can become far more authentic.
“In the case of mass-produced campaigns, targets of these types of crime would often be able to identify the inauthentic nature of a message due to obvious spelling or grammar mistakes or its vague or inaccurate content,” says Europol. “With the help of LLMs, these types of phishing and online fraud can be created faster, much more authentically, and at significantly increased scale.”
This echoes similar warnings from cybersecurity firms including Norton, who also identified the potential of ChatGPT to empower scammers.
Coding for cybercrime
Another area highlighted by Europol is coding, as ChatGPT makes it easy for someone with little or no programming knowledge to begin creating basic code. Whereas previously a criminal would have had to have some expert knowledge, ChatGPT lowers the barriers to almost anyone. Levering a chatbot someone can easily set up a phishing page online or create a malicious VBA script for office tools including Excel and Word.
The only issue for users with criminal intent is sidestepping the safeguards within ChatGPT. Europol points out that these safeguards are not foolproof.
“Critically, the safeguards preventing ChatGPT from providing potentially malicious code only work if the model understands what it is doing,” says Europol.
As countless users have shown, those internal safeguards are less than foolproof.
Getting around protections
As MetaNews reported earlier this month, ChatGPT users have probed adroit at sidestepping the safeguards within the system. This is commonly referred to as jailbreaking the bot, to free it from the prison of its ethics codes.
Jailbreaking is not the only option for those who wish to avoid the guardrails of ChatGPT. While the online version of the bot may be limited by ethics codes and restrictions, a private version of the application would not have those same boundaries. Earlier this month AI and neural network expert Brian Roemmele demonstrated that it was possible to create an LLM that worked from a local computer.
As for ChatGPT the technology does not stand still, something that Europol is acutely aware of. The agency is now warning that GPT-4 could make policing even more challenging.
“GPT-4, the latest release, has already made improvements over its previous versions and can, as a result, provide even more effective assistance for cybercriminal purposes,” they said.
TikTok US Ban Threatens Small Businesses, Creators and Entertainment Industry
China-owned video-sharing platform TikTok is on the verge of a nationwide ban in the United States. A possible ban will force more than 150 million users in the United States to uninstall the app, which will also affect 5 million small businesses and content creators.
TikTok has transformed from a social platform for content creators to a major entertainment force that has disrupted Hollywood and changed the entertainment industry.
Also Read: Congressman Says TikTok Ban Won’t Ensure Americans’ Data Safety
A ban on TikTok now could have dire consequences for not just the app’s biggest stars and small businesses, but also for movie studios, record labels, casting directors, agents, and actors, who would need to drastically change their business practices.
TikTok has not transformed from a dancing and lip-syncing video sharing app into something more, a platform that amplifies unheard voices.
“TikTok is the most democratized content platform we’ve ever had and it has revolutionized Hollywood,” said Adam Faze, studio chief of entertainment studio FazeWorld.
The consequences of a TikTok ban
TikTok has provided an opportunity for individuals who were previously excluded from the media and entertainment industry to bypass conventional gatekeepers and enter the industry.
“I see TikTok as the old days of free network TV … Taking it away would go back to an era where we’re relying on legacy media brands and what Hollywood wants us to watch, because they’re the only ones who can afford a marketing budget to find an audience,” said Faze.
According to a recent survey by The Washington Post, TikTok’s user base comprises a greater proportion of young and non-white individuals.
TikTok’s audience is younger, more diverse, and has lower incomes compared to other social media platforms. 53% of non-white adults and 59% of Americans ages 18–34 use TikTok. People with lower incomes and without college degrees are also more likely to use TikTok, the survey shows.
Faze produced successful TV shows for TikTok, including “Keep the Meter Running” which became an instant hit, reaching millions of viewers.
The studio chief revealed that while shooting an episode in London, the production team were chased down the street by young fans of the show, due to its success on TikTok.
Reaching users at scale
Alex Sanger, executive vice president of global digital marketing at Universal Pictures, says the company heavily relies on TikTok for movie marketing.
TikTok is the bridge to “reach basically everyone at scale” for the company, he explained.
“We use it as an awareness builder, we use it to drive deeper engagement with our IP, and we use it further down the funnel to convert people into moviegoers.”
It’s natural to wonder what happens when that awareness builder is no longer available.
TikTok a ‘discovery mechanism’ for record labels
Despite its growing popularity, TikTok is facing accusations of sharing users’ personal data with the Chinese government, which has led to a possible ban in the United States.
The crackdown has got the music and entertainment industries worried.
Tatiana Cirisano of Midia Research, an entertainment industry consultancy, warned that a TikTok ban would majorly disrupt the music industry.
“This isn’t just about artists losing a tool, this is a major discovery mechanism for major labels themselves, the [potential ban] is more important and more related to their bottom line than you might think,” said Cirisano.
The way “artists are marketed and introduced” to the public is also changing.
“TikTok is something the music industry has been relying on to help solve some of those challenges over the past couple of years,” argues Cirisano.
TikTok has also become a source of revenue, with the industry generating revenue from licensing deals on tracks played on the social media app.
Blurred entertainment lines
Bill Rosenblatt, President of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies, puts the music industry among the many business contemplating how a potential TikTok ban could affect their bottom line.
don’t ban tiktok! it might force the music industry to invest in artist development again, thus creating sustainable, project-focused artists instead of annoying one hit wonders !!!! pic.twitter.com/CY2HMJXLGl
— Thomston (@ThomstonMusic) March 24, 2023
“Although entertainment is the largest content category of TikTok videos by a wide margin, it’s not known how much of that is specifically related to music,” stated Rosenblatt.
Rosenblatt noted that the categories within “entertainment” are blurred on TikTok, with many users getting famous through lip-syncs, dance routines, or videos set to someone else’s music. However, only a small number of users are artists who distribute or promote their own music on the app.
To understand the impact on the music industry if TikTok disappears from the US market, it helps to understand the effect it’s had on the business thus far, explained Rosenblatt.
A potential ban on TikTok in the US could have significant consequences for not only its users, but also for the entertainment and music industries that have come to rely on the platform for marketing and revenue.
It remains to be seen how this situation will develop and what the ultimate outcome will be.
Twitter Poll Eligibility Limited to Verified Accounts From April 15, Says Musk
Twitter will be implementing a major change in its recommendation system, Elon Musk has announced. Starting from April 15, only verified accounts will be eligible to appear in For You recommendations.
In a tweet, Musk said the change “is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. Otherwise it is a hopeless losing battle.”
Also Read: Experts Say Twitter’s 2FA Policy Change ‘Doesn’t Make Sense’
Twitter is continuing to make changes to its policies following Musk’s $44 billion takeover last October.
The latest announcement follows last week’s removal of the status of some legacy accounts on the micro-blogging site. Twitter has also introduced paid subscription for blue ticks and other additional features, including an edit option for tweets.
Verified voting rights
Along with the “For You” page, the company is altering its policy on voting in polls.
“Voting in polls will require verification for same reason,” stated Musk.
The big boss previously said that paid verification significantly increases the cost of using bots and makes it easier to identify them.
“That said, it’s ok to have verified bot accounts if they follow the terms of service and don’t impersonate a human,” clarified Musk in the same thread.
However, the announcement has been questioned by some users.
“Is it OK for humans to impersonate bots?” asked Nick Percoco, Chief Security Officer at Kraken.
Recouping $42 billion?
A large number of Twitter users have criticized the change.
“Discouraging people from using your website by trying to shake them down for cash to use a site that’s been free its entire existence is definitely a smart strategy for recouping your $42 billion,” stated Zack Hunt.
Hunt said he realized “why some people think you’re a business genius.”
“For anyone who wants to stay on Twitter, this is a good time to make a list of your favorite users and use it as your primary feed now that For You will be all Twitter Blue junk! Otherwise you’ll never be shown tweets you actually want to see,” tweeted Ella Dawson.
In another response, Zerry Rig expressed uncertainty regarding the overlap between two groups of people: those willing to pay $8 to the richest man alive, and those who create interesting content.
“I’m not sure the venn diagram of people willing to pay 8 bucks to the richest man alive and the people who make interesting content overlap very much,” stated Rig.
I genuinely owe Elon such a debt for his tireless work breaking my addiction to the bad website https://t.co/MOlJpyHlL9
— Andrew Egger (@EggerDC) March 28, 2023
Twitter user Rita Panahi criticized the platform’s recent bot-eliminating exercise, stating that she would have been more convinced if legacy verified accounts weren’t being compelled to pay.
It remains to be seen how Twitter’s new policy will work. Perhaps we’ll just have to wait until it goes live.
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