Is A Leading Social Media App a Threat to Millions?
Whether you are a massive user of social media or not, you have likely heard of TikTok. This social video sharing platform is a great way to pass the time and get a good laugh for many users. This could all be coming to an end though, as the social media platform is under heavy scrutiny by many government, including the United States. India has already banned the use of the app. But what is wrong with watching and sharing social videos? The social videos are not the problem, but the data collection of a company headquartered in China is what many people are worried about.
TikTok has been downloaded over 2 billion times across the world. About 165 millions of these downloads have been in the United States. In comparison, India has contributed to over 611 million downloads. Clearly this social platform is immensely popular, but is it safe? There is much concern about the company being a subsidiary of a Chinese based tech company. Under Chinese law, companies in China must cooperate and hand over any and all information that the Chinese Communist Party requests. TikTok collects plenty of personal information, just like many other social media sites so this could potentially put the data of millions of users into the hands of the Chinese government. This is one of the reasons of concern for many governments.
What Does TikTok say about this?
TikTok has stated that these claims are unfounded. They have said that they have "never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would they do so if they were asked". TikTok says that data for U.S. users is stored on U.S. servers and is not reachable or under jurisdiction of the Chinese Communist Party. This is tricky because TikTok is a subsidiary of ByteDance. ByteDance is the highest valued startup in the world, and it is based in China. TikTok, as a subsidiary, operates outside of China, which is the basis for their claim that it is not subject to Chinese law. To further distance themselves, TikTok recently hired a CEO from the United States.
This sounds to me like a Chinese company is telling the Chinese government that they found a loophole to avoid following the laws. In a communist country, I can't imagine that a company that is doing this will be around for very long. I don't know, that is just my observation. Whether or not they have shared any information is still a question. Whether or not they could share this information however, is pretty clear. Other social media companies also collect much of the same data on users. They don't have this scrutiny because they are not subject to the same laws as a company in China.
Other Factors Affecting TikTok
TikTok also faces other challenges outside of this perceived "security threat" that they are currently facing. There are also the global factors of interactions between China and other countries. TikTok is associated with China, so they will see backlash as conflict with China occurs.
Most recently, this is true with India. The country banned the use of TikTok, thus eliminating nearly one third of the global users for TikTok. The ban came with the explanation that TikTok and 58 other Chinese applications "posed a threat to sovereignty and integrity." This may be true, but also consider that India and China have been fighting over a border dispute in the Himalayan region. This dispute recently turned violent, with 20 Indian soldiers killed and many more injured. All of the apps banned were of Chinese origin. It is speculation if these are connected, with the ban coming just 2 weeks after the skirmish.
With the United States looking at a possible TikTok ban as well, there is similar speculation. There is the concern over national security regarding data collection and privacy. The use of the app is already not allowed to be used by employees of the TSA, Homeland Security, and members of the United States Armed Forces.
Recently, TikTok was used in the United States in a viral scheme to book thousands of seats for a rally in Oklahoma for President Trump. This gave the appearance that there was going to be a large attendance. Many of these booked seats though were from people who are against Trump and had no intention of attending the rally. Rather they did this to keep seats away from those who do support Trump.
Now, just weeks later, the Trump administration is looking into TikTok and a potential ban of the app for security flaws. The app was under scrutiny, but the ploy against Trump's election campaign may have just moved it up on his priority list.
Whether or not we will see TikTok banned in the United States is still yet to be told. One thing is for sure though. There will be many reports, articles, and much more drama around the subject in the weeks to come. Already, many "TikTok Famous" celebrities are looking at migrating their fan bases from TikTok to other social media sites that are deemed more "safe" and less likely to be shut down.