Hey, TikTok, You Are the Problem

January 4, 2023

Chinese-owned TikTok has taken the world by storm, and the US is no exception. Especially among the youngest cohorts. That is a problem for several reasons, but it is the risk to privacy and data security that has officials finally taking action. First to move were several states, as CNN‘s Brian Fung reports in “Why a Growing Number of States Are Cracking Down on TikTok.” We learn:

“At least seven states have said they will bar public employees from using the app on government devices, including Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Texas. (Another state, Nebraska, banned TikTok from state devices in 2020.) Last week, the state of Indiana announced two lawsuits against TikTok accusing the Chinese-owned platform of misrepresenting its approach to age-appropriate content and data security.”

We note this quote by the Berkeley Research Group’s Harry Broadman:

“I’m a little bit mystified why it’s taking so long for CFIUS [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] to deal with this problem. There must be some issue that’s going on.”

The Arnold IT team is mystified as well. Maybe lobbying and political contributions are the issue? Or cluelessness about the immense value of children’s and young people’s data? These overdue actions on the state level were followed by proposed federal legislation. Fung discusses the bipartisan effort in, “US Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Ban TikTok:”

“The proposed legislation would ‘block and prohibit all transactions’ in the United States by social media companies with at least one million monthly users that are based in, or under the ‘substantial influence’ of, countries that are considered foreign adversaries, including China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. The bill specifically names TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, as social media companies for the purposes of the legislation. … TikTok has previously said it doesn’t share information with the Chinese government and that a US-based security team decides who can access US user data from China. TikTok has also previously acknowledged that employees based in China can currently access user data.”

But we should totally trust them with it, right? Not willing to take ByteDance at its word, the US military, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and other security-conscious federal agencies long since banned the app on devices under their control. Will the prohibition soon extend to the rest of the country, to both public and private entities? If so, prepare for the rage of Gen Z.

Cynthia Murrell, January 4, 2023


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