Reddit boss describes TikTok as ‘spyware’ and ‘fundamentally parasitic’ as the controversial video app is set to surpass 10 million users in the UK by 2021

  • Reddit CEO Steve Huffman was speaking on a panel at San Francisco conference
  • Said he actively encourages people to not install the app on their handsets
  • He compared it spyware and said he thinks the app is ‘fundamentally parasitic’ 
  • The Reddit co-founder added the fingerprint technology it uses is truly terrifying

The enormously popular video-sharing app TikTok has been savaged by the top boss of Reddit in a string of scathing comments about the Chinese app. 

CEO and co-founder of Reddit Steve Huffman called TikTok ‘fundamentally parasitic’ and urged people not to install ‘that spyware on your phone’. 

He also singled out the fingerprint scanning technology the app uses and said it was ‘truly terrifying’. 

As the conversation wandered towards TikTok, Mr Huffman vehemently rejected the notion that American start-ups could adopt certain aspects of TikTok’s blueprint. 

It comes as market researchers predict TikTok, made by the Chinese firm ByteDance, will surpass ten million users next year in the UK alone.

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CEO and co-founder of Reddit Steve Huffman (pictured) called Tik Tok ‘fundamentally parasitic’ and urged people not to install ‘that spyware on your phone’ at a Silicon valley panel meeting 


TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions. 

TikTok’s tagline is ‘Make every second count’.

It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.

TikTok is known in China as Douyin where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available around the world in 2017.  

Douyin is still the version of the app used in China, available to download separately to TikTok.

Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app, also with headquarters in China. 

Most children use the app to film themselves lip-syncing to chart hits. 

It offers users a raft if colourful modification and editing tools including overlaying music, sound, animated stickers, filters and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos. 

The Beijing based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $75 billion (£58 billion). 

The damning remarks were made while he was speaking on a panel that also featured former Facebook VP of Product Sam Lessin. 

It was a gathering of investors and entrepreneurs at a one-day conference called ‘Social 2030’.  

Mr Huffman said: ‘Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with them.

‘Because I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.’

He later piled more scorn onto the short-form video platform, saying: ‘I actively tell people, “Don’t install that spyware on your phone.”‘

MailOnline has approached TikTok for comment.  

The focus of the conference was to spot trends and emerging themes in social apps, of which TikTok is a budding phenomenon.  

TikTok is wildly popular with children and young adults due to the bitesize, easily digestible content the app specialises in.

In January, it topped the list of most downloaded apps in both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, despite still being banned in China. 

Parents first need to open the app on both their and their child’s phones and go to ‘Privacy and Settings’.

Under ‘Digital Wellbeing’, they need to select ‘Family Safety Mode’.

They must then identify which phone belongs to the adult and which to the child.

Scanning a QR code from one phone with the other links the accounts and lets the parent control the following features: 

Screen Time Management: Control how long their teen can spend on TikTok each day.

Direct Messages: Limit who can send messages to the connected account or turn off direct messaging completely.

Restricted Mode: Restrict the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. 

According to SensorTower, a mobile analytics site, TikTok was the most downloaded social media app worldwide with 104.7 million installs.

This represents a 46 per cent increase from January 2019 and puts it ahead of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

Industry analyst firm eMarketer has revealed TikTok will likely reach ten million users in the UK by next year.

It predicts that this year the UK user base of TikTok will grow 67.0 per cent to 8.12 million people and continue to grow and surpass ten million by 2021. 

‘TikTok had a breakout year in 2019, and it is incredibly popular among teens at this point,’ said eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson. 

‘Some are spending multiple hours per day on the app, which is a testament to the incredible stickiness of its scrolling video format. 

‘But it has yet to develop a strong following among older generations.’ 

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