Why TikTok security risks continue to spark fears – The Denver Post


The battle between the United States and China over TikTok is on full display Thursday when the social media platform’s CEO testifies before congressional lawmakers.

Shou Zi Chew’s hearing comes at what he calls a “pivotal moment” for the hugely popular short-video sharing app. TikTok is owned by parent company ByteDance, which has offices in Beijing. The platform has 150 million US users, but is dogged by persistent claims that it threatens users’ national security and privacy, or could be used to promote pro-Beijing propaganda and disinformation.

Chew will try to persuade lawmakers not to pursue a ban on the app or force its sale to new owners.

So are the data security risks real? And should users worry about the TikTok app being wiped from their phones?

Here’s what you need to know:


FBI and Federal Communications Commission officials have warned that ByteDance may share TikTok user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric IDs — with China’s authoritarian government.

Officials fear that TikTok, which like many other social media platforms collects vast amounts of data about its users, could be forced to hand it over to Beijing under a 2017 law that requires companies to provide all personal data relevant to Chinese national security.

Concerns around TikTok were heightened in December when ByteDance said it fired four employees who accessed data on Buzzfeed News and Financial Times reporters while trying to trace the source of a leaked report on the business.


The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — known as CFIUS and part of the Treasury Department — is conducting a review and has reportedly threatened to ban the app in the United States unless its Chinese owners cede their claim. participation. China’s Foreign Ministry in turn accused the United States itself of spreading misinformation about TikTok’s potential security risks.

White House officials said there were “legitimate national security concerns about the integrity of the data.”

Some U.S. senators urged CFIUS last year to quickly conclude its investigation and “impose strict structural restrictions” between TikTok’s U.S. operations and ByteDance, including potentially separating the companies.

At the same time, lawmakers have introduced measures that would expand the power of the Biden administration to enact a nationwide ban on TikTok. The White House has already backed a Senate proposal that enjoys bipartisan support.


Authorities in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific have banned the TikTok app, mostly on government-issued phones or devices used for official business, citing cybersecurity concerns. Britain last week imposed a government phone ban while New Zealand banned lawmakers and other workers in its parliament from having it on their phones.

The three main institutions of the European Union, the Executive Commission, the Parliament and the Council, have ordered employees to remove it from their work phones. The same goes for the Danish Ministry of Defence. The Canadian government said its ban includes blocking public officials from downloading the app in the future. Norway and the Netherlands warned this week against installing TikTok on government devices.

The White House has ordered US federal agencies to remove TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices. Congress, the US Armed Forces and more than half of US states had already banned the app.


In a TikTok video this week, Chew appealed against a ban, saying it could take the app away from 150 million US users.

In his testimony, he plans to describe how the company’s data protection and security efforts go “beyond” anything its social media and online entertainment rivals do.

Under an ongoing $1.5 billion project called Project Texas, US user data is routed through servers controlled by Oracle, the Silicon Valley company it has partnered with for the purpose of to avoid a national ban.

Old US user data stored on non-Oracle servers will be deleted this year. Under this arrangement, Beijing has no way to access the data, Chew said in prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing.

TikTok has also sought to present ByteDance as a global company, not a Chinese one. Executives pointed out that ByteDance’s ownership consists of 60% large global investors, 20% employees and 20% Chinese entrepreneurs who founded the company. TikTok itself is headquartered in Singapore.


It depends who you ask.

Some tech privacy advocates say that while the potential abuse of privacy by the Chinese government is concerning, other tech companies have data-collecting business practices that also exploit user information.

“If policymakers want to protect Americans from surveillance, they should advocate for a basic privacy law that prohibits all companies from collecting so much sensitive data about us, rather than s ‘engaging in what amounts to xenophobic showboating that does exactly nothing to protect anyone,’ said Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future.

Karim Farhat, a research fellow with the Internet Governance Project at Georgia Tech, said a sale of TikTok would be “completely irrelevant to any of the so-called ‘national security’ threats” and run counter to State Department’s Internet “All Free Market Principles and Standards”. principles of freedom.

Others say there are legitimate reasons to be concerned.

People who use TikTok may think they’re not doing anything a foreign government might care about, but that’s not always the case, said Anton Dahbura, executive director of India’s Information Security Institute. Johns Hopkins University. Important information about the United States is not strictly limited to nuclear power plants or military installations; it extends to other sectors, such as food processing, the financial industry and academia, Dahbura said.


The United States has banned communications equipment sold by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, citing national security risks. But banning the sale of items is easier than banning a free app.

Such a decision could also end up in court on the grounds that it could violate the First Amendment, as some civil liberties groups have argued.

Another possibility, although remote, is to force a sale. That’s what happened in 2020 when Beijing Kunlun, a Chinese mobile video game company, agreed to sell the gay dating app Grindr after an order from CFIUS.

Beijing Kunlun said it signed a “national security agreement” with CFIUS to sell Grindr to San Vicente Acquisition for $608.5 million, promising not to send sensitive user data to China, to cease operations there and to maintain its headquarters in the United States.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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