Is Time Up For TikTok?

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August 3, 2020
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August 27, 2020

Is Time Up For TikTok?

Written by: Joe Bartolotta

On Friday President Trump pledged to ban TikTok from the U.S. over data privacy concerns. The company faces scrutiny from China’s ability to use the platform to gather data on Americans. TikTok has been banned on official devices by the U.S. Army. Further, the app is under national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment.  

How is TikTok answering? 

TikTok issued a response stating that “protecting the privacy of our users’ data is of the utmost importance to TikTok.” Spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn said that “TikTok collects much less U.S. user information than many of the companies in our space and stores it in the U.S. and Singapore. We have not, and would not, give it to the Chinese government.” TikTok has taken steps to distance itself from its owner ByteDance. They are hiring more U.S. engineers and reducing its reliance on staff in China. In addition, the company hired an American CEO from Disney, Kevin Mayer.

TikTok’s U.S. privacy policy states that the app gathers your country location and internet address, if you grant it permission. It also uses your age, phone number, exact location, and other social network connections. This information adds up to an extensive profile of different users that can be used for targeted advertising. However, data mining like this isn’t much different from platforms like Facebook. The main difference is that users are entrusting their data with a Chinese-owned company rather than on from the U.S. But just remember, companies in China probably make your phone, laptop, and TV too. We should be wary of xenophobia dressed up as privacy concerns.

What’s next for TikTok?

TikTok has stated the Chinese government has never asked for user data and would refuse such a request. It’s important to consider how well the company could actually resist this type of order. Fortunately, there’s a new deal on the horizon between TikTok and Microsoft for a possible acquisition. Microsoft stated that they “would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” On Monday, President Trump stated that he would be willing to endorse a deal for a secure American company (like Microsoft) to purchase TikTok from ByteDance. He added that it must happen before September 15th.

 

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