US lawmakers are pushing for a national ban on TikTok amid concerns over national security, as users, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, take to the app to protest.
The social media platform now has more than 150 million users in the US, making it difficult to police. TikTok’s Chief Executive, Shou Zi Chew, appeared before a US House committee for five hours on Thursday, where lawmakers from both parties grilled him on various concerns involving the app.
Despite protests, the US authorities appear set on restricting the platform, with growing calls to pass bipartisan legislation to give Joe Biden’s administration legal authority to seek a ban.
Growing Concerns Over Tiktok’s Data Privacy
According to US authorities, the Chinese government may use TikTok, which is controlled by the Chinese company ByteDance, to snoop on US citizens.
Republican congressman Neal Dunn questioned Chew about ByteDance during the hearing; Chew responded that he did not believe “spying is the right way to describe it.”
But Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy noted in a tweet on Sunday that “it’s very concerning that the CEO of TikTok can’t be honest and admit what we already know to be true – China has access to TikTok user data.”
In an effort to ease lawmakers’ worries, the business claims to have spent more than $1.5 billion on data security initiatives as part of “Project Texas,” which involves moving all US user data to a different location.
Possibility of TikTok Ban by the US
As calls for a national ban on TikTok grow, authorities are pushing ahead with restricting the platform. Kevin McCarthy, the US House of Representatives speaker, said lawmakers would move forward with legislation to address national security concerns about TikTok, alleging China’s government has had access to the app’s user data.
However, the grassroots social media effort to save the app highlights the tension between its growing popularity and lawmakers’ push to ban it. Thousands of video edits flooded the app, making fun of moments in the hearing, with young users skewering politicians as out of touch for questions about TikTok’s technology.
Double Standards of US Data Privacy Laws
While the US considers outlawing TikTok, legislators are also debating whether to renew the authority that compels companies like Google, Meta, and Apple to enable unrestricted spying on foreign residents who are not US citizens.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) permits US intelligence agencies to conduct warrantless spying on foreigners’ email, phone, and other online communications.
The FISA must be renewed by the US Congress by December to avoid expiring due to a sunset provision. The lack of privacy mirrors the alleged threat that US officials claim TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, presents to Americans for billions of internet users outside the US.
The Global Implications of Tiktok’s Data Privacy Concerns
Businesses, including Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft, that run the modern internet are subjected to US law. Lack of privacy mirrors the alleged threat that US officials claim TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, presents to Americans for billions of internet users outside the US. It is a situation of “rules for thee but not for me,” according to Melbourne, Australia-based tech researcher and privacy advocate Asher Wolf.
While spying on foreigners is a common practice for governments, Washington has an advantage that other nations lack, giving US agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) essentially unrestricted access to gather information on foreign nationals.
TikTok’s data privacy issues and the ensuing controversy have repercussions for many countries, as they are being investigated and addressed in other nations as well.
For instance, TikTok and several other Chinese apps have been prohibited in India due to national security and privacy issues. Other nations, such as Australia, Japan, and the UK, have also voiced worries about TikTok’s data privacy techniques and are considering imposing restrictions or opening investigations.
Due to TikTok’s global reach and substantial user base, any violation of data privacy could have an effect on millions of individuals all over the world.
The TikTok incident has brought attention to the necessity of worldwide collaboration and the creation of cybersecurity and data privacy standards, but what do you think?