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Why TikTok's security risks continue to raise concerns


What are the concerns raised by the social network? How is the United States responding? Has it already been restricted in other countries? Are there precedents? We explain it.



The social network TikTok has once again denied that its parent company, ByteDance, will share customer information for its popular video app with the Chinese government or publish pro-Beijing propaganda or disinformation.

China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday accused the US of spreading misinformation about TikTok's potential security risks, following a report by The Wall Street Journal that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US – part of the Department of Commerce – was threatening to ban the network in the US unless its Chinese shareholders sold their shares.

The Federal Communications Commission has asked the government to withdraw the app for national security reasons.Getty Images

But are the security risks with TikTok data real?

Should users be concerned that the app will be deleted from their phones?

Here's what we know.

What are the concerns about TikTok?

The FBI and Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share TikTok users' information — such as search history, location, and biometric data — with the Chinese authoritarian regime.

A law passed in China in 2017 requires companies to hand over to the government any information relevant to the country's national security.

There is no evidence that TikTok has released that information, but fears abound due to the vast amount of data it collects on its users, just like other social media companies.

Concerns about TikTok rose in December when ByteDance said it fired four employees who accessed the data of two journalists for Buzzfeed News and The Financial Times while trying to find out the source of a leaked report about the company.

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How is the United States responding?

John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, declined to comment when questioned about the Chinese Foreign Ministry's statements on TikTok, referring to the review it is carrying out by the Committee on Foreign Investment.

Kirby also could not confirm that the Administration sent TikTok a letter warning it that the US could ban the app if its Chinese owners do not sell the shares, but added: "We have legitimate national security concerns regarding the integrity of the data [ of the users]".

We have legitimate national security concerns regarding the integrity of user data."

John Kirby spokesman for national security

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump and his Administration tried to force ByteDance to sell its US shares and ban TikTok from online app stores.

The courts blocked those efforts.

President Joe Biden withdrew Trump's order but ordered an in-depth study of the matter.

The planned sale of TikTok's US shares was also put on hold as the Biden Administration negotiated a deal with TikTok that touched on some of the national security concerns.

A man takes photos of the TikTok kiosk at the Gamescom event in Germany in August 2022.AP

Lawmakers have introduced measures that would expand the Biden Administration's authority to impose a TikTok ban in the country.

The White House has shown support for a Senate proposal on the issue that has bipartisan support.

How has TikTok been restricted already?

British authorities indicated Thursday that they were banning TikTok on government phones for security reasons.

The decision follows similar actions by the executive wing of the European Union, which temporarily banned TikTok on employee phones.

The Netherlands and Canada also announced efforts to block the social network on government phones.

The White House said last month that it would give federal agencies 30 days to remove TikTok from all government mobile devices.

Congress, the military and more than half the states have banned the app.

What has TikTok said?

Maureen Shanahan, a spokeswoman for TikTok, has said that the company was responding to security concerns with "robust monitoring, investigation and verification conducted by a third party, in a transparent manner and based on the protection of US user data." .UU and its systems".

TikTok declared in June that it would direct all US user data to servers controlled by Oracle, the Silicon Valley company it chose as its US technical partner in 2020, to avoid a ban in the country.

But that it was keeping a copy of the files with the information on its own servers in the US and Singapore.

The company said it expects to delete all US user information from its servers, but has not disclosed when that will take place.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is due to appear before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce next week to testify about the company's security and privacy practices, and relationship with the Chinese government.

Meanwhile, ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, has tried to position itself as an international entity and less of a Chinese firm that was founded in Beijing in 2012.

Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, speaks in Singapore in September 2022.Getty Images

Theo Bertram, TikTok's vice president in charge of European policy, said in a tweet on Thursday that ByteDance "is not a Chinese company."

Bertram expanded that it is owned by global investors in its 60%, employees (20 percent) and founders (20%).

Its leaders are established in cities such as Singapore, New York, Beijing and other metropolises.

Are the concerns legitimate?

It depends on who you ask.

Tech privacy advocates say that while there are concerns about potential privacy violations by the Chinese government, other tech companies have information-gathering practices that also exploit user data.

"If lawmakers want to protect Americans from espionage, they should advocate for basic privacy protection laws that prohibit all companies from collecting sensitive information, rather than engage in what constitutes a xenophobic show that does nothing to protect nobody," said Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit group Fight for the Future.

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Others say there are legitimate reasons to be concerned.

People using TikTok may think they're not doing anything that would be in the interest of a foreign government, but that's not always the case, said Anton Dahbura, executive director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

[A general predicts there will be a war with China]

Valuable information about the US is not limited to nuclear plants or military installations, it also extends to other sectors, such as food processing, the finance industry and universities, Dahbura stressed.

Is there precedent for another company being restricted before?

Washington last year banned the sale of communications equipment made by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, citing national security risks in reasoning its decision.

But removing the sale of products could be easier than banning an application, which is accessed over the Internet.

Such a decision could go to court on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment, as some civil liberties groups have suggested.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2023-03-17

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