TechnologyTiktok privacy issue

Tiktok privacy issue


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There are repeated calls to ban the Chinese social media app Tiktok. But are these demands justified?

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European Commission officials and government employees in the US or Canada aren’t exactly Tiktok’s main target audience. The short video service with viral content from the Chinese group ByteDance is especially popular with young people who are less concerned about the government’s security concerns.

However, after the order to delete Tiktok from company mobile phones, a general ban was imposed on the service in western countries.

BSI is reluctant to formulate concerns about Tiktok

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It is said that 70 percent of teenagers in the US already use Tiktok. With the rise of the service, warnings have been heard over and over again for fear that user data will be leaked to China.

Federal Data Protection Officer Ulrich Kelber also criticizes Tiktok. As early as June 2021, the data protection officer advised federal ministries and authorities not to use the Chinese provider’s video app on commercial devices. However, the result of a comprehensive analysis announced is still awaited.

The Federal Office of Information Security (BSI) also formulates its concerns rather vaguely: “Basically, a large number of applications are known to transmit data to relevant manufacturers and third parties.”

Tiktok content falls victim to censorship

German Press Agency expert Rüdiger Trost, who works for security company WithSecure, is more difficult to assess: he considers Tiktok “very dangerous”.

Tiktok’s algorithm puts individuals who, according to Western understanding, need special protection at a particular disadvantage.

Rüdiger Trost, security expert

For example, videos of disabled people would be played less on Tiktok. Trost also sees the connection with the government of the country of origin as problematic: “Events that do not please the Chinese state become victims of censorship.”

Tiktok denied the allegations

Much of Tiktok cannot be reconciled with the West’s understanding of human dignity, equality, freedom of expression, and protection of minorities. “The risk of deliberately influencing public opinion in Western societies is just as great as the danger of espionage. At least before the elections.”

Tiktok doesn’t want to let claims like this stay on the agenda. Spokespersons for the group repeatedly claim that US users’ data is processed in the US and backup servers are located in Singapore. Tiktok is also independent of the Beijing-based division of ByteDance.

These assurances, however, had little effect on political Washington. Republican Party officials, in particular, treat Tiktok as if it’s doing business directly with a Chinese Communist Party service.

Worry about free internet

The anti-Tiktok stance has a long tradition among Republicans. In 2020, then-US President Donald Trump threatened to ban Tiktok in general if ByteDance did not sell the service to US software company Oracle. Trump saw that the national security of the United States was threatened, but without going into details. TikTok legally defended itself until Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, halted his confused takeover plans and accepted the measures his predecessor had taken.

But plans to ban in the US are far from the table. Well-known US security expert Bruce Schneier considers it a “terrible idea”. “The side effects would be unbearable,” Schneier wrote on his blog. In the end, any effective option (to ban Tiktok) will destroy the free internet as we know it.

Expert: All apps sell data

There’s no doubt that Tiktok and ByteDance are suspects, Schneier wrote. “Like most large companies in China, they work on behalf of the Chinese government. They collect a tremendous amount of information about their users.” But don’t be alone on Tiktok:

Many of the apps you use, including Facebook and Instagram, also do the same, seemingly innocuous apps that don’t need data. Your data is traded by data brokers you’ve never heard of and have little conscience about where it’s going.

Bruce Schneier, US security expert

You would have digital files about most people in the United States. The expert advocated for an effective data protection law in the US that could protect consumers “not just from the app of the week” over the long term.

Source: ZDF

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I'm Ashley Robinson, a professional writer and journalist. I specialize in news writing and have been working for the past five years with News Unrolled. My main focus is on technology-related topics, though I also write about politics, healthcare, and business from time to time.


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