The TikTok Security Saga
Whether or not you’ve heard about TikTok, you may have heard about its security saga. There are a few reasons why TikTok is a concern for the United States, and you may be wondering what the best way to protect yourself is.
Chinese government could use TikTok to subtly indoctrinate American citizens
Several US government officials have raised concerns about TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing app owned by Beijing firm ByteDance. These officials believe TikTok could be used by the Chinese government to monitor, influence and control American citizens.
The app’s algorithm decides what users see. Aynne Kokas, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, describes TikTok as an “entertainment platform” that is “a critical communications infrastructure for the Chinese government.”
Buzzfeed News reported that TikTok parent company ByteDance employees in China have accessed nonpublic data of U.S. users.
TikTok has been under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) for months. This committee oversees radio, television, satellite and cellular service. It has found TikTok’s operations in the United States to be a “potential national security threat.”
The committee ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok of all of its U.S. assets, including the app’s servers. The company has said that it shares user data with third parties outside the United States, but does not disclose that data.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner said that TikTok posed privacy concerns to Americans. The committee also expressed concern about the algorithm that enables TikTok to influence users.
The committee on foreign investment in the United States (CFIUS) is reviewing TikTok’s national security concerns. A preliminary agreement would allow TikTok to continue operating in the U.S., but would require the company to use Oracle to store all of its user data. The company would also be required to provide security reviews of TikTok’s operations.
TikTok’s emphasis on an “interest graph” has gone over the heads of competitors. The company stresses measures to prevent “filter bubbles” in which users are grouped into “clusters” based on their preferences.
Lawmakers say that TikTok could be used by the Communist Party of China to monitor and influence American citizens. TikTok has been criticized for its ability to censor content and for transferring user data without user consent.
According to the FBI director, Christopher Wray, TikTok could be a “national security threat” and that China-based employees could have access to the U.S. users’ data.
US government regulation could halt TikTok’s meteoric rise
Several US government agencies are investigating whether TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing application, poses a threat to national security. The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is leading the review. TikTok is considered a threat because it collects user data and stores it in a country viewed as a national security threat.
TikTok is one of the only recent social media startups to compete with tech giants like Facebook. Its business model is eating into the profits of established social media companies. TikTok uses advanced AI and voice recognition, and it includes features like facial and object recognition.
However, TikTok is not immune to the risks of data collection and privacy, and the United States government is considering regulating TikTok. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has called for a ban on TikTok.
Last week, the Treasury Department confirmed that a review is underway into whether TikTok poses a national security risk. According to Secretary Steven Mnuchin, TikTok is not yet on the chopping block, but there is a possibility that the United States might take action against TikTok. The committee has the power to recommend to the president that he force TikTok to sell its operations in the United States. This could be a symbolic action, but it would likely have repercussions for TikTok’s employees.
The committee also has the power to fine TikTok, and impose oversight conditions to reduce risks. These oversight conditions could include oversight boards of former US government officials, tracking data flows and managing risks.
TikTok is a popular mobile entertainment app that was developed in 2016, and has been downloaded 200 million times to date. Its users have grown rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are expected to surpass Facebook as the most popular app in the world by 2022.
TikTok is a video-sharing application that allows users to upload and share short-form videos. The app is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance. TikTok has been under investigation for years by the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
A new executive order by President Trump, which was issued on April 13, could lead to a ban on TikTok. The order was criticized for being ill-drafted, but it has some benefits.
Canadian TikTok ban vs China’s cybersecurity law
Earlier this year, the Canadian government banned Chinese tech firm Huawei from the country’s 5G networks. But now, the same company is battling its own cybersecurity issues.
TikTok, a social media application that promotes content based on videos users have watched in the past, is being criticized as a national security threat, as well as a data security risk. A recent investigation by the Guardian found that the app censored content relating to the Chinese government.
It also found that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by failing to provide parents with notice that their children’s information would be transmitted to Chinese servers. TikTok has argued that it does not store US user data in China. But it has also come under criticism for collecting a vast amount of information about users.
The company has been able to maintain a high user base, but experts and policymakers alike are concerned that Chinese government access to the platform’s user data could present a national security risk. It could also be used for corporate espionage and influence operations.
The US government is investigating TikTok for national security reasons. But the Trump administration’s approach to the issue is dangerously broad.
As the president’s trade war with China continues, Chinese tech companies that hold sensitive user data are at the center of the controversy. And while the Trump administration’s concerns don’t match those posed by Chinese tech firms, there are unintended consequences to the administration’s bans.
It’s no secret that the Trump administration is concerned about the emergence of Chinese influence in the U.S. The White House is concerned that TikTok may be an attractive target for a Chinese influence operation.
In response, the White House is seeking to ban the app from federally owned devices in the future. The White House has cited “national security concerns” in this case. However, experts say the White House has yet to present any proof that TikTok poses a national security threat.
In addition to the national security concerns, the White House is also citing the TikTok app’s potential for misuse. The application is a video sharing platform that automatically captures vast swaths of user data. Including search histories and browsing history, it recommends content based on user preferences and device type.
Oracle deal leaves critics and supporters of the president scratching their heads
Despite President Donald Trump’s recent condemnation of China’s censorship of TikTok, a deal he approved last month to buy the popular video-sharing site appears to be in jeopardy. It will likely not meet Trump’s executive order requiring a national security review. However, the deal would be made by Oracle, a business software firm, and Walmart, an e-commerce company, with TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, holding a majority share.
The deal will make Oracle the technology provider for TikTok, which currently has operations in the United States. Oracle’s chief executive officer Larry Ellison is also on the president’s transition team. He hosted a fund-raiser for the president last year.
The two companies said they would also create a $5 billion education fund. That fund would be used to develop artificial intelligence-based curriculum that would teach basic reading and history. However, Oracle said it would not give TikTok any equity stake in its new company, TikTok Global. It would also run on Oracle’s cloud computing service, which eliminates the risk of foreign governments spying on users.
It is not clear what the Justice Department will do to defend the deal. Its spokesperson did not comment on the Trump order, but the department had previously said it was satisfied with Oracle’s bid.
The deal also will not make Oracle a better steward of TikTok. However, it does not sever ties with the Chinese parent, ByteDance, and it does not eliminate national security concerns.
As for the education fund, Oracle and Walmart said it would be used to develop an artificial intelligence-driven curriculum. However, that fund is unlikely to include a $5 billion finder’s fee for the sale of TikTok.
In addition, the two companies said they would pay $5 billion in new taxes to the Treasury. While the two companies have said they will work to make TikTok’s algorithm safer, Microsoft will monitor the company’s progress in addressing security and privacy concerns.
The deal is expected to spark a wave of new dealmaking. However, it may not come to fruition, and it could be a bust for both Microsoft and Oracle.