Anyone who thinks #China-based companies like @tiktok_us wouldn't be required to hand over data that the Chinese government requests, @klonkitchen said, has "a fundamental misunderstanding of how the government in Beijing works." pic.twitter.com/x4sQn6VdWG— Senator Hawley Press Office (@SenHawleyPress) August 7, 2020
TikTok collects far too much user data, so the administration of Trump is absolutely right. When you register, personal information. Device details, network details, location. All you search on the platform, or browse. Your comments and messages. TikTok can also access your social media contacts and payments on your phone if you opt in. TikTok is also part of the web-based marketing machine to analyze pages you visit.
Of course, the US allegations went far beyond that. The media have shown that TikTok is blatant spyware that collects and filters data from user phones that extend beyond normal social media. The United States has even suggested that TikTok tracks user sites and uses video face recognition.
And, while all of this was flown by the media, Apple and Google were the two voices most marked by their absence - all of the crimes were allegedly attacked by operating systems owners. After all, these are users of Apple and Google who are confident in their security. If anyone has the keys to unlock the secrets of TikTok, they are the two American technology giants. A US countdown on TikTok has now begun - selling or banning. Silence is suddenly sultry for Apple and Google.
Let's therefore uncover the two main American allegations. Firstly, this information is captured by TikTok and provided to the Communist Chinese Party in the context of surveillance. Technically feasible: I can naturally track a user if I have identified him and can mark his places. We saw that in the US with standard marketing databases. This was demonstrated. This is easy for TikTok. Let us be honest, however, that China has little interest in America's minute-by - minute youth movements. This is a non-issue unless you are interested in China. TikTok is not a trove of very valuable data for China's national security strategy.
This leading to Senator Josh Hawley's second major US claim, named TikTok as a "Trojan cheval for the Chinese Government," out of his own policy and tapped into broader phone data, including e-mail and push-buttons. This is a far more serious claim. And the battle is at the heart of Trump, TikTok and ByteDance parents.
Categorically, let's be clear. No evidence exists that TikTok is a Chiness Government intelligence tool that essentially contains malware on 100 million devices, exfiltrates email messages, contacts, locations, data files, media, and sends them all to Chinese intelligence agencies for analysis and guidance. So much has been said even by the CIA. The intellectual community is concerned about the government's use of Chinese technology companies. On this list, TikTok isn't high.
So, is all this a herring red? No. No. The USA is absolutely right to take action on two very serious issues. We have allowed a situation to develop in which social media collects outstanding information about us, so we have to regulate and monitor where a social media platform is not subject to our legislation. We should also actively monitor the feeds promoted by such an application so as to make sure it is not a propaganda and/or disinformation machine forcing on critical topics in politics, commerce and security, including coronavirus, a state-directed narrative.
The best way to understand TikTok's problems and problems is to see Huawei. The risk in the network equipment developer is alleged to have very high links with the Chinese state. The way that you can block access to an app is not to switch off or replace the 5 G network instantly. A hypothetical threat – demonstrably or otherwise, the likes of Huawei (as well as ZTE, Dahua, HikVision, Hytera, SenseTime, Megvii, Yitu and more) prompted a level of responsiveness.
However, in all the U.S. campaigns against Huawei, the claim that Huawei users were at risk of spyware has never been credible. Think that through. Let's think through that. Huawei controls the device and its security, operates the OS, and provides a protective framework for all apps. After the U.S. Sanctions, it is even closer to Google, pushing its own applications and app store and a framework for its own services. Huawei is perfectly positioned for taping into user information - but it was never credible, almost immediately detected.
As ByteDance is not, Huawei is a strategic company in China. In fact , China is quite indifferent especially to the U.S. threats against ByteDance, though the macro consequences are a huge question. Huawei has connections to the country - though it denies any control or ownership of ByteDance, again in a way that it does not. Yes, the startup in Beijing is subject to the laws of China and this problem does, but it did not have the same State support to develop its international business for Huawei and others.
China's national security legislation is an issue – that China may theoretically require ByteDance data and that ByteDance will be able to gain access to these data irrespective of where they are stored. Regulation and monitoring are needed for another reason. It is a social media app based in a country which opposes the US and its allies, the problem with TikTok. It has brought up a new safety issue that we haven't had before. As I said, the US is right to somehow oppose this.
Lastly, how do we know that TikTok does not go outside these boundaries in secret? We know that, if they were, they would have known Apple and Google. Without such technology giants, TikTok would not be able to tapp into e-mails or keystrokes to exfiltrate all data on a device. Google, for instance, took action last year against other Chinese apps that were guilty of such misconduct. Meanwhile, Apple has set up as a privacy champion for users – its iOS 14 beta is a trigger for the current problems of TikTok. But the TikTok allegations are quiet both about Apple and Google.
If TikTok was found guilty, the USA would not enjoy the current pantomime. The platform is blocked by Google and Apple app shops for breaching their policies, irrespective of whether the government itself is acting.
We've spent two years discussing Facebook's merits and dangers, a platform that collects much more information than TikTok. And so TikTok has the same risks. However, because of Chinese regulations, it is probable that we need a U.S. partner, a third-party monitor, a security champion. However, here there is no new need. Security reviews are ongoing since last year and movements have already been in place for a while to restrict TikTok installations on government devices. In recent months, there has been no change in the growth of TikTok and the political environment - in America and with Peking.
TikTok users need not worry about the use of certain emotional language. We can have a sensible discussion of the necessity of regulating a social media platform in the opposing state. We can even talk about whether we should take a change of ownership as far as possible. It was for this very purpose that the United States had its CFIUS inter-agency procedure - which was ongoing before the recent events - CFIUS, for example, that opposed Grindr's Chinish ownership. But let political appropriateness not dissipate this discussion and set dangerous precedents for the future.