With over 1 billion active users in 154 countries, TikTok has taken the Internet by storm, catching users’ attention with short videos of anything from dances to popular cleaning hacks.
However, the popular social media platform has come under increased scrutiny and regulations for its privacy and security practices, with allegations ranging from exploiting children to sharing data with the Chinese government.
While the platform has been banned from government-issued devices in certain countries, there are also calls to ban it from the app store altogether, regardless of whether the user is a government employee or a regular civilian.
In this article, we will discuss these proposed and actual bans, including why TikTok has come under such scrutiny.
TikTok privacy and security concerns
To understand the proposed bans on TikTok, we must first look at why TikTok has come under such increased scrutiny. TikTok, similar to other social media platforms, collects massive amounts of personal data on the users of the platform.
This data may include anything from names, email addresses, and phone numbers to likes, dislikes, and buying preferences.
In addition, TikTok uses a sophisticated algorithm to show certain video clips to users that the algorithm believes the user would like to see.
The main concern with TikTok is that it is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, with some US officials believing that TikTok has established a back door where personal data is shared with the Chinese government.
Officials believe that the Chinese government could use TikTok to harvest data on Americans and advance Chinese interests, which could make the platform a national security concern.
It is important to note that TikTok once denied that such a back door exists and has stated that China’s Communist Party cannot access the data of US citizens.
However, TikTok admitted that users’ personal data worldwide could be accessed in its Chinese headquarters.
Though this does not mean that the Chinese Communist Party accesses the data, it certainly raises some concerns about who the data could be accessed by.
TikTok ban on government devices
Multiple governments have banned TikTok on employee devices, citing privacy and security concerns.
For example, the European Commission asked all Commission employees to uninstall TikTok from their corporate devices. In addition, the government of Canada banned TikTok from government-issued websites, citing an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.
Lastly, TikTok is banned on US government devices due to privacy and cybersecurity concerns and the concern that the Chinese government could force ByteDance to share the data it collects on its users.
TikTok has also been banned in India, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
TikTok ban on personal devices
Some legislators are going further by proposing a total ban on TikTok in the United States and the removal of the app from Apple and Google App Stores.
For example, Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado has called on Apple and Google to remove the app from their stores, claiming that it poses a national security risk since ByteDance is subject to Chinese Communist Party rules.
In addition, bills proposed in the House of Representatives and the Senate propose the blocking of TikTok in the United States.
While it may be difficult to pass these bills, if passed, consumers may no longer be able to download the TikTok app on their devices.
Should you download TikTok?
If you have not already downloaded or used TikTok, you may wonder whether you should do so (at least while you can).
Whether or not you download TikTok on your phone is a personal choice. However, you should be aware that the app collects a lot of personal data and shares it with multiple third parties, such as researchers, advertisers, marketers, analytics vendors, and transaction fulfillment providers.