By Marc Ramsingh
TikTok is a potential national security threat. Chinese laws dictate that they are able to access information from Chinese-based companies. The parent company of TikTok, ByteDance, is based in China, so no matter what TikTok openly said to the U.S., the user data of its 150 million users at any time could be given up in the interest of mass surveillance.
The concerns that Congress has for the Chinese-owned TikTok can easily and should be applied to our domestic social media platforms such as Meta, Snapchat, and Instagram.
The U.S.’s Provisions
ByteDance has stated that U.S. investment firms Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Japan’s SoftBank Group control 60% of TikTok’s shares; the founders and employees own 20% each. What U.S. national security interests want is the sale of TikTok to an American-based company instead.
Data protection, data leakage, and the overall safety of user data are among the other concerns the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has been questioning TikTok on. These concerns are completely valid and should be applied just as intensely as to domestic social media companies — counterparts such as Meta have had similar massive data breaches. In a speech from FBI director Christopher Wray, it was in 2017″the Chinese military conspired to hack Equifax and made off with the sensitive personal information of 150 million Americans—we’re talking nearly half of the American population and most American adults….Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China.“.
Previously, TikTok was banned on all government devices and for some government employees. In more recent news Montana is the first state to ban TikTok for every individual on its border this trend is expected to continue with more conservative states. The RESTRICT Act is aimed largely at TikTok and serves as a blanket ban across the US. Its vagueness, particularly with regard to other privacy-protecting methods like using a VPN, leaves it open to interpretation.
What’s in it for China?
China will likely not allow ByteDance to sell TikTok to a U.S. company due to China’s own national security and surveillance laws that restrict the sale of data algorithms to foreign entities.
China has been described as a surveillance state, meaning its government has “proprietary” control over its own companies and citizens. Though their government has stated that it has never and will never seek out data in such a way, it was implied that China feels “caught” that its appeared ability to access data is facing revocation. China’s reaction could mean an act of escalation and retaliation, including using Chinese export laws to void the sale of TikTok to an American buyer (likely), and placing harsher restrictions on American business in China (likely).
Photo Courtesy // Chip Somodevilla, GI //