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TikTok opens data to US researchers in its bid to be more transparent

The app has launched its research API after beta testing it over the past few months.

Anatoliy Sizov via Getty Images

TikTok has launched its research API and has started giving more people access to its data as part of its "continued commitment to transparency and accountability," the ByteDance-owned service says. The short-form video hosting app has been beta testing its API since last year with help from members of its Content and Safety Advisory Councils. Now, it's expanding the API's availability to researchers affiliated with non-profit academic institutions in the US.

Any proposal submitted by interested universities and researchers will have to be approved by its US Data Security (USDS) division, the new subsidiary TikTok established to comply with national security reviews in the United States. Those that do get approved will get access to public account and content information users post on the app, such as the details found on user profiles, comments, likes and favorites. TikTok's API could give researchers a look into the social media usage of the younger generation and an alternative source of information overall. Other social networks also offer research APIs, but in Twitter's case at least, people will soon have to pay to be able to use it.

The service is giving more outsiders a look into the data it has access to at a time when it's desperately trying to prove that it's not a threat to national security. It has spent years negotiating with the US government, but several states have recently prohibited the app's installation on government-owned phones, and it's is still facing calls for a total ban in the country.