TikTok API Rules Stymie User Data Analysis

Terms of service for API access give TikTok publication review over findings and limit access to critical data on the platform's impact on US users, researchers say.

Dark Reading Staff, Dark Reading

September 22, 2023

1 Min Read
The TikTok logo on a street sign
Source: GK Images via Alamy Stock Photo

New terms of service for researchers to access TikTok's API are a deterrent to analysis of the video platform's data security for US users and overall social impact, according to academics.

From investigating the effects of misinformation on elections to looking for clues about the best way to reach the public in the event of a natural disaster, accessing TikTok's API data is crucial, particularly amid worries about the platform's relationship with the Chinese government and its access to oceans of US user data, according to a new report.

And although TikTok says it is working to make its data more readily available for research, the new terms of service, released on Aug. 10, include provisions that researchers must give the social media company publication review over any findings, Bloomberg's report said. Further, researchers must refresh their TikTok data every 15 days, making the company's access requirements more stringent than competitors like YouTube and X, formerly known as Twitter, it added.

"TikTok is committed to working with the research community to support independent research," a company spokesperson told reporters. "Our goal is to make it easy to independently research our platform and bring transparency to TikTok content, while rolling out our API responsibly and in a way that helps ensure data is only used for appropriate non-commercial purposes and protects our community's privacy rights."

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Dark Reading Staff

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