Don’t Trust TikTok’s Plan to Secure Americans’ Data

By Zach Graves and Dan Lips

TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media apps, with more than 80 million U.S.-based active users, including an astounding 70 percent of all American teenagers. Through its rise in popularity, the app has been plagued by a series of security and privacy concerns related to its parent company, ByteDance, and its deep ties to the Chinese government.

Since the Trump Administration’s attempt to ban the app over the concerns, TikTok has tried to reassure American users and Congress that it is taking steps to protect their data security. However, a new report shows sensitive user data is still being accessed by the Chinese government. In addition, TikTok’s partnership with Oracle — a company with its own troubling history in China — should be raising eyebrows.

As the social network grabs user attention away from U.S.-based rivals such as Instagram and Twitter — thus, playing a growing role in news, politics, and elections — it’s time for Congress and the Administration to reassess the app’s national security risks, which raise several unique concerns. One key issue is that the platform serves as spyware for the Chinese government, collecting location data, biometrics, audio recordings, and other information from its users. In addition to ByteDance’s direct government ties, firms in China are subject to expansive extraterritorial data access laws which legally prohibit disclosure. Another threat the app poses is that the company’s opaque algorithm could be manipulated by engineers in China to promote propaganda and disinformation, potentially fanning the flames of a domestic crisis, influencing U.S. elections, or performing other hostile actions.

Click here to read the full piece from the National Security Institute.

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