Monday, March 4, 2024

Online security, the West-China war is being played out on TikTok

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Besides the US, Canada and Europe have “recently banned the app from official devices,” writes the New York Times.

Governments have expressed fears that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, could endanger sensitive user data.

In recent months, lawmakers in the US, Europe and Canada have stepped up efforts to restrict access to TikTok, the wildly popular short-form video app owned by Chinese company Byte Dance, citing security threats. to write NYT.

The White House said Monday that federal agencies have 30 days to remove the app from government devices. Canada and the European Union’s executive branch have also recently banned the app from official devices.

A House committee on Wednesday backed an even more radical measure, voting in favor of legislation that would allow President Biden to ban TikTok from all devices nationwide.

That’s why the pressure has increased on TikTok, which claims to be used by more than 100 million Americans.

US, Canada, Europe: Rebels against China with TikTok

Why are governments banning TikTok?
It all depends on China.

Western lawmakers and regulators are increasingly concerned that TikTok and its parent company ByteDance could put sensitive user data, such as location information, in the hands of the Chinese government. They cited laws that allow the Chinese government to secretly request data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering activities. They also fear that China could use TikTok content flags to spread disinformation.

TikTok has long denied the allegations and has tried to distance itself from Byte Dance.

Have some countries banned TikTok?
India banned the site in mid-2020, one of its biggest markets byte dans cost, after the government cracked down on 59 Chinese-owned apps for secretly sending user data to servers outside the country.

What’s happening with Prohibition in America?
Since November, more than two dozen states have banned TikTok on state-issued devices, and several colleges such as the University of Texas at Austin, Auburn University and Boise State University have blocked it from campus Wi-Fi networks. The use has already been banned for three years in US government equipment used by the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. But the restrictions don’t usually extend to individual devices. Students often switch to cellular data to use the app.

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Is Congress trying to ban TikTok?
Some members like to do that. This week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to pass a bill that could give the president the power to ban the platform entirely. (Courts previously blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to do so).

In January, Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a bill to ban TikTok for all Americans, which was passed as part of a spending package in December. Another bipartisan bill introduced in December aimed to ban TikTok and target all similar social media companies from countries like Russia and Iran.

What is the Biden administration doing?
In response to questions about TikTok, the White House this week hinted at an ongoing review, but was largely silent. TikTok has been in confidential talks for years with the administration’s review board, the Foreign Investment Committee in the United States, to answer questions about TikTok and Byte Dance with the Chinese government and how it handles user data. TikTok said it had received nothing since submitting a 90-page proposal in August outlining how it would operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.

Can the government ban an app?
Most existing TikTok bans have applied to governments and universities that have the power to block the use on their devices or networks.

A broad government-imposed ban that prevents Americans from using an app that allows them to share their ideas and art could be challenged on First Amendment grounds, said Caitlin Chin, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. After all, scores of Americans are making videos on TikTok, including elected officials and major news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

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“In democracies, the government cannot restrict freedom of speech or expression without a very strong reason, and it’s not clear that we already have that,” Ms Chin said.

What if I already have TikTok on my phone when the restraining order is issued?
The exact mechanism for banning use on privately owned phones is not clear.

Chin said the U.S. could block TikTok from selling ads or updating its systems, effectively shutting it down.

Apple and other app store companies block downloads of apps that no longer work. They also ban apps that contain inappropriate or illegal content, said Justin Kappos, a professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

They also have the facility to remove apps installed on the user’s phone. “Normally this doesn’t happen,” he said.

More committed users could resist the ban by refusing to upgrade their phones, ‘which is a really bad idea,’ said Professor Kappos.

App’s answer to America

What is TikTok’s answer?
TikTok called the bans “political theater” and slammed lawmakers for trying to censor Americans. “The quickest and most comprehensive way to resolve the national security issue related to TikTok is to adopt the proposed resolution that CFIUS has been working with for nearly two years,” TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement. Separately, TikTok is trying to win over allies and recently traveled to Washington to meet with influential think tanks, public interest groups and lawmakers to push the plan it presented to the government.

How do TikTok’s privacy and security issues differ from Instagram, Facebook or Twitter?
Chinese ownership seems to be the main problem.

Critics of efforts to ban the site have pointed out that all social networks engage in widespread data collection of their users.

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Fight for the Future, a non-profit digital rights group, recently launched the #DontBanTikTok campaign aimed at drawing lawmakers’ attention on TikTok to create data and privacy laws that apply to all major tech companies.

“The general consensus in the privacy community is that TikTok collects a lot of data, but it’s not outside the scope of data that other apps collect,” said Robin Caplan, senior research scientist at the Data & Society Research Institute.

Against the ban

Who else opposes the ban?
The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week protesting the proposed legislation, which it says would violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.

Of course, millions of Americans, digital creators and marketers won’t take kindly to the platform’s demise, and blocking the popular app could create a political backlash among young people.

What should I do now to protect my data if I use TikTok?
To protect your privacy on TikTok, you can follow the same practices you use to protect yourself on other social media platforms. Among them, don’t give the app permission to access your location or contacts.

You can watch TikTok videos without opening an account.

What approaches are there other than prohibition?
The administration may approve TikTok’s plan to operate in the US. There is also the possibility that lawmakers could force Byte Dance to sell TikTok to a US company, something that almost happened in 2020.

Article taken from Eprcomunicazione’s foreign press review

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Bruno Lawrence
Bruno Lawrence
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