TikTok has become insanely popular with people of color, including celebrities like Jason Derulo, who amassed over 57 million followers. So it may come as a surprise that high-level U.S. lawmakers have raised concerns about the Chinese government using their data to spy on them and the efforts made by TikTok and other companies to reassure people that Chinese staff cannot access data collected by non-Chinese users.
Chinese companies must collect data from their users and give it to the Chinese government for national security. This data includes personal information, such as name, address, email, and phone number. Furthermore, the Chinese government may also require companies to share sensitive intellectual property or proprietary commercial secrets. TikTok has ensured the U.S. that their data will not be shared with the Chinese government without explicit consent. TikTok has implemented a system in which all user data is stored in U.S. servers and accessed only by non-Chinese staff members with American citizenship when necessary.
In response to concerns raised by nine U.S. senators about the potential for Chinese government access, TikTok chief Alex Zhu has assured them that their data is safe and secure, with robust cybersecurity controls in place. The Beijing-based ByteDance employees that manage the app’s operations have no access to the data and are not allowed to try to access it. TikTok is also subject to strict access controls, monitored by a US-based security team. Further, TikTok’s staff could only access user data with explicit permission from the company’s board of directors.
The company has also taken measures such as restricting physical address stores from Chinese personnel to protect user privacy. s a result of these actions, TikTok poses a low risk for national security and collects data primarily from non-Chinese users. However, many people are concerned about the Chinese parent company, Bytedance, and their ability to share app user data with the Chinese government.
In July 2020, the U.S. government banned TikTok from its app stores due to security concerns and the potential for data misuse. The ban forced TikToks parent company to take other apps off its platform, including a popular video-sharing app called Douyin. the Chinese government has strict guidelines on how companies should collect and share user data, such as biometric location identifiers and browsing history.
Some people are concerned about the implications of large tech companies’ data-gathering practices; national security concerns are also being considered. As a result, tech companies in China have been able to exploit user information to create tailored foreign influence campaigns, develop profiles of their users, and track their locations. The Chinese government also uses data collection businesses to harvest internet browsing information. Tech privacy advocates say that the Chinese government may use this collected data to control software on user devices or interfere with the software on devices to compromise personal devices used by citizens. This could create a situation where the Chinese government can create tailored foreign influence campaigns and develop profiles of its users’ devices and practices, which could be shared with lawmakers.
Therefore, it is clear that collecting internet browsing data from various tech companies can pose a high risk when it comes to privacy and national security. As such, lawmakers should take action to ensure that users remain safe from these kinds of malicious activities conducted by the Chinese government.