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To TikTok or Not to TikTok?  

November 17, 2022

One of the librarians that I work with shared this recent article from American Libraries about librarians who use TikTok,

As librarians in an Academic library, we’re always trying to figure out which social media platform we should use to reach our students. We currently have Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. We know that we aren’t reaching students on our Facebook page, but we do reach a lot of college employees and alumni there. We aren’t reaching many of our students on Twitter and so we rely on Instagram to reach our students. Lately, we have been talking about TikTok and trying to figure out if it would be worth starting a TikTok account for our library. We know that some students are using the platform – likely more than are using Facebook or Twitter. In the article from American Libraries, it does seem that some librarians have been able to find a great deal of success using TikTok. However, there are concerns about the TikTok platform.

Their privacy policy shows that they are collecting A LOT of data, including information that you start composing but never save or post. You can review the entire privacy policy here: Many social media companies collect a lot of information about their users, but what makes TikTok worrisome is that even though they are run by a US-based company, their parent company is a Chinese company called Bytedance. In the TikTok privacy policy, they state “We may share all of the information we collect with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group.” If employees of the parent company can access user data, could they be compelled to share that data with the Chinese government? This question is sticky enough that the US Military has blocked members from putting TikTok on government devices and members of legislature have been encouraged not to use it either. This article from Wired reviews how complicated this situation is,

At this point we’ve agreed that we don’t want to have a TikTok account for our library because of the privacy questions. Are we missing out on a great tool to reach patrons? Maybe we are. However, we think we’re getting enough student engagement on Instagram that we can push the TikTok decision down the road a bit.

Is anyone else using TikTok in their library and what are your thoughts on the privacy implications?

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