This has certainly raised some eyebrows among social media and privacy analysts.
Today, TikTok has started showing users in Europe, the UK and Switzerland new, in-app notifications informing them of changes to its data collection policies.
As you can see in these examples, shared by social media expert Matt NavarraTikTok is changing the way it uses people’s data within its ad targeting systems.
More specifically, TikTok explains that:
“If you are 18 or over and in the EEA, the UK, or Switzerland, TikTok is making a legal change to how it will use your on-TikTok activity to personalize your ads. Under applicable data protection law, companies like TikTok must have a legal basis for processing your information. Historically, TikTok asked you for your “consent” to use your on-TikTok activity and off-TikTok activity to serve you personalized ads. From 13 July 2022 TikTok will rely on its “legitimate interests” as its legal basis to use on-TikTok activity to personalize the ads of users who are 18 or over.”
Note the inverted commas around ‘consent’. Seems like a red flag in itself.
Essentially, TikTok’s saying that if you have not consented to personalized ads in the past, which TikTok has to allow as part of the EU’s data privacy provisions, you’ll soon get a form of personalized ads anyway, based on your in-app activity. TikTok appears to be looking to use a technicality to maximize the performance of its ads, even among users who have opted out of personalized targeting.
Which is not surprising, I guess, but it does point to the increasing pressure within TikTok to start making real money from the app – which could result in more ads being shown to users over time.
While Twitter remains in ownership limbo, and Meta is diverting more and more of its resources into its metaverse push, it seems, on the face of it, like TikTok is currently the only platform on a clear upward trajectory, with usage counts rising, more ad dollars coming in, and new programs designed to capitalize on the rise of eCommerce and the Creator Economy.
TikTok, at least right now, is the clear winner in the social media sphere are present, right?
Well, maybe not as much as you’d think.
In recent months, TikTok owner ByteDance has faced a range of new challenges, including, most notably, a change in the regulations relating to data and algorithm usage in China.
As per The South China Morning Post:
“As with many Chinese tech companies, ByteDance’s prospects for profit growth in the domestic market remain clouded by tightened regulations. The central government has become more intrusive in regulating short video content. A new law governing the use of recommendation algorithms went into effect in March.”
CCP regulators, increasingly frustrated at their inability to reign in content within these apps, have sought to exert more control, which has extended to all of ByteDance’s key income sources.
That increased regulatory scrutiny has already wiped $100 billion from the value of ByteDance, forcing the company to consider sell-offs, staff cuts and more as it works to right the ship.
That pressure has also extended to TikTok, which, aside from these new data usage changes, has also been looking to enforce more China-centric style policies in terms of what’s expected of employees, and the content that it allows in the app.
ByteDance executive Joshua Ma, who had been working with TikTok’s UK eCommerce teamwas recently forced to stand down after trying to impose tough working conditions on staff, in order to hasten its expansion.
As reported by The Financial Times:
“The launch of TikTok’s livestream shopping feature in the UK triggered a staff exodus from the London ecommerce team. Some staff complained of an aggressive company culture, with unrealistic targets and expectations that run counter to British working practices. Staff said they were expected to frequently work more than 12 hours a day, starting early to accommodate calls with China and ending late as livestreams were more successful in the evening, with overtime celebrated in internal communications. Some members of the ecommerce team were removed from client accounts after going on annual leave.”
Ma has also stated that he ‘doesn’t believe’ in maternity leave, which was also reported by The Financial Times, and which, incidentally, led to another issue on the content side, with TikTok then reportedly considering a move to censor keywords such as ‘Financial Times’, ‘Joshua Ma’, ‘maternity’, and ‘toxic’ on the platform in order to weaken the Financial Times report’s impact.
TikTok says that this ban was never implemented, but it highlights a fundamental concern within TikTok’s approach, in that a first instinct of at least some execs was to seek to silence criticism and dissent.
And you’d have to assume that at least some of this extends from the pressure being exerted on the company’s Beijing HQ.
How this new data usage policy relates is unclear, but with TikTok still only contributing around a third of ByteDance’s overall revenue, despite its global reach, you can imagine that ByteDance will be increasingly keen to squeeze more cash out of the app – and sooner, rather than later.
Which remains a challenge. ByteDance has seen big revenue success with the Chinese version of TikTok (called ‘Douyin’) by implementing eCommerce integrations, primarily driven by the take up of live-stream commerce in China.
According to ByteDance, over 20 million individual content creators and live-streaming hosts are now generating income from its apps, with total live shopping revenue in the Chinese market set to reach $423 trillion this year. That’s more than the entire GDP of Ireland.
But the CCP’s crackdown is also impacting this element, with a bigger push to catch out influencers that haven’t been fulfilling their tax burden, which has already impacted many local streaming stars.
Add to this the fact that more brands are reconsidering their relationships with streamers (due to influencers demanding ever-more attractive deals), and the signs indicate that a reckoning is coming for the booming sector, which will again impact ByteDance.
It’s also not great for its push on the same with TikTok. Despite its popularity, TikTok is still developing a more equitable business process, especially in regards to ensuring its top stars get paid. TikTok’s expected to bring in around $11.6 billion in ad revenue this year, but it still doesn’t have an effective means to redistribute that to creators, which could, eventually, see many of them drift off to YouTube and Instagram instead.
TikTok is working on this, as noted, but a key focus, as it has been in China, is live-stream commerce, which it’s hoping will become a golden goose in western regions as well. But it hasn’t yet, and many Chinese trends haven’t translated to other markets in the past – and it could well be that TikTok creators just want to get paid for making videos, which they can’t do on TikTok, but they can through YouTube’s Partner Program.
Could that see more creators losing interest in the platform, and taking their audiences with them? That’s what eventually killed off Vine, and it remains a genuine possibility for TikTok as well. Which is why TikTok is desperate to get back into India, where it’s still banned, while it’s also looking to implement more ad options and tools to maximize its revenue intake while it can.
Essentially, when viewed on a broader scope, you can see how the increasing pressure on ByteDance is weighing on TikTok as well, and will likely force it to push forward with various revenue tools, including more ads, which poses a big risk for its growth potential.
That’s not to say TikTok’s on the way out just yet. Far from it, but there are signs there, and there are concerns that you may not recognize when looking at its growth numbers in isolation.
Maybe there are ways around it – maybe TikTok could get sold off and operate as a separate entity, or maybe its commerce options will be a hit and facilitate bigger business opportunities for the app.
Either way, you can expect to see more changes in the app as the pressure mounts on its parent business.
Meta announced the launch of FAcebook Graph API v14.0 and Marketing API v14.0which are the back-end systems that power the connection to Meta’s various tools and platforms, and facilitate access to third-party applications.
Meta’s API updates can be sneaky, with big changes sometimes hidden in technical jargon, so it’s worth keeping up to date with the latest to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
So what’s new in this release – and what does it mean for regular users?
Well, sure, it’s mostly aligned with developers, but there will be widespread impacts, in different ways.
First, Meta is updated the questions it asks developers to answer as part of its data protection assessment, which it first launched last July.
Questions, like the one above, essentially ask developers whether their apps will use Meta data in a negative way, such as using personal information for discriminatory purposes or sharing Facebook user data with third parties.
The measure is an additional layer to better protect Meta from possible misuse, as Meta can refer to developer responses as a way to revoke access for all apps based on these settings.
Although I find some of the question strings quite funny:
“Oh yeah, my app puts people with disabilities at a disadvantage by taking their Facebook profile information and evaluating if they’re using a screen reader, and it’s been years.”
It’s a pretty flimsy layer of insurance, given that each developer will just tick the right boxes and move on, but as noted, the real impetus is to give Meta a fallback run position – that’s i.e. you have agreed to this contract which states that your application won’t be used for this purpose.
The deeper questions will provide more capacity on this front.
Meta is also meIntroducing a new “access verification” process to identify technology vendors using its platform.
“This process will be required for new and existing businesses with applications that require access to customer business assets on Meta.”
This will help Meta better understand how each app uses its data and what it enables on the user side, with third-party management apps now required to disclose this specifically.
As an extension of this, Meta is also adding new tools in Business Manager that will give businesses more visibility into the application integrations they use to manage business assets, through which they will also soon be able to manage their various access points and tools to stay on top of these features.
Meta is also adding “Transactional”, “Marketing” and “One Time Password” as message template options through the WhatsApp Business Management API and WhatsApp Manager UI, while also adding support for configuring and editing post-conversion optimization. process.
Finally, it also adds new authorized use cases to access both the user Likes and publishes data via the Graph API.
“Starting today, permitted use cases will include parental access controls and monitoring apps that analyze user tastes and the content of user posts. These apps are used by parents and guardians to screen for potential risks to the safety or well-being of anyone under the age of 18. Apps are limited to social media analytics of young people as presented in the app’s user interface.”
It’s a tricky area for Meta, because that’s exactly how it got into trouble with the Cambridge Analytica case, with academics having access to Facebook user data, in depth, which allowed the CA team to develop a psychographic system for alternative purposes.
It’s still unclear how effective this was, but since then Meta has essentially locked down access to this kind of information – so the fact that it’s now available in certain circumstances is significant.
On the other side of the coin, Meta is also removing some options, including connection targeting for ads, which allows advertisers to segment their audience based on how people are connected to your business.
For example, using connection targeting, you can select audience segments based on whether they are connected to your Page, app and/or event. Connections also extend to users who are friends with anyone connected to your business.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to simplify our targeting options, we are removing Connection targeting from all Meta advertising platforms on June 15, 2022. Prior to this date, we recommend that developers convert their existing audiences that leverage connection targeting to an Engagement Custom Audience or equivalent Lookalike Audience. These alternatives also allow developers to target ads to users who are logged into their page, app and/or event.”
So Meta essentially removes the ability to reach friends of people who engaged with your page or event, but you’ll still be able to reach relevant and interested audiences through its lookalike audience options.
Meta is also removing the “User by Segment” feature from the Facebook Analytics Mobile App Custom Audience.
The changes this time around are relatively minor, and Meta hasn’t introduced any sneaky big updates, which again has happened from time to time (especially before a long weekend). But there are a few pertinent points to note, which will apply beyond the developer community.
For the most part, this won’t change your Facebook or Instagram advertising strategy, but there will be some minor changes to the Facebook marketing experience.
You can read more about Meta’s latest API changes here.