Is TikTok’s owner, Beijing-based ByteDance, giving the Chinese Communist Party access to private user information? TikTok is the biggest social media app in the US.
The Chinese-owned social media programme must be removed from all government-issued mobile phones in the country within 30 days; this deadline is approaching. The United States believes this, rattled by concerns over national security.
Given how seriously the US government views the threat, it is likely that the app will be completely outlawed. Beijing has charged Washington with misusing state power despite China’s own tight privacy regulations, which drove Western technology companies to quit or scale back operations there.
Due to serious security concerns, the White House instructed all federal agencies to remove TikTok from government-owned devices on February 27. Significantly, the limits are already in place at a number of organisations, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State, as well as the White House. The Office of Management and Budget applauded the action and hailed “guidance” as a crucial advancement in addressing the risks the app presents.
Defending the “guidance,” the US federal top information security officer Chris Derusha claimed the action aims to secure the US digital infrastructure and to protect American people’s security and privacy.
The “No TikTok on Government Devices Act,” enacted by Congress, was criticised by TikTok earlier in December of last year as being politically driven. “The ban of TikTok on federal devices passed in December without any deliberation has served as a blueprint for other world governments,” a TikTok spokesperson said in Washington, on the day the “guidance” was issued by the White House.
While the EU announced it had temporarily banned the use of the app from phones used by employees as a cyber-security measure, Canada, Britain, and New Zealand immediately followed suit by outlawing TikTok on all government-issued devices.
TikTok, a Chinese company which moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020 and enjoys a market value of about $220 billion, was recently in a political controversy when the Biden administration asked ByteDance to sell its shares in TikTok or face the risk of being banned in the United States.
Following the Chinese company’s flat refusal, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives enacted yet another Measure intended at crippling TikTok. The Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries (DATA) Law was approved by the US Congress on February 24, just a few days before the White House “advice,” in spite of objections from politicians from both parties and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
It’s interesting to note that the DATA Act of 2023, also known as the Warner Bill and named after Democrat Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, formally allows the government to “deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, or otherwise mitigate” services it deems dangerous as long as it has access to “sensitive personal data” from more than 1 million people in the US.
In other words, It gives the secretary of Commerce the authority to forbid foreign firms and technologies from operating in the US if they pose a threat to national security, even though it does not specifically name TikTok. On the day the Bill was enacted, Warner told the reporters, “Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok and how it could permit surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party.
On another level, a story published in FTChinese.com last Thursday casts doubt on the company’s Chinese ownership, adding a fresh wrinkle to the continuing conflict between the US and China over TikTok. “TikTok’s interaction with the US government is not only relevant to the rights and interests of the parent business ByteDance but greatly worries its majority foreign shareholders,” the article in Chinese alleges.