Should TikTok be Banned?
by Mikayla Pugel | February 26, 2021
In the last couple of years and with large technology companies, there have been many concerns about data collection and processing, however, the issues were always kept inhouse. With the creation and rise of TikTok, the issue has been taken to another level since the data collection is leaving America. Throughout this article, I will discuss concerns about TikTok and reasons why some people want it banned, as well as walk through some reasons why the concerns may be misplaced and why the ban has not happened yet.
First, many American entities have already banned TikTok from their workers’ devices. Some of these groups include The Democratic National Committee, The Republican National Committee, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps, and the TSA (Meisenzahl). Leaders from these groups are worried about the app gaining sensitive information from the device it is downloaded to. These worries are not without a warrant as Apple’s iOS 14 caught TikTok secretly accessing user’s clipboards (Doffman, July 09). However, other tech companies were caught doing the same thing, but TikTok was the only second-time offender. The concern around TikTok getting sensitive information is not limited to it being a vast tech company, but mainly because it is a Chinese-based company, and there are concerns about where the data may end up.
TikTok collects an abundance of data from all over the world, and many foreign leaders are concerned that the data may fall into the hands of Communist China. The company has made many claims that they would never give up user data to their government, however, the Chinese National Intelligence Law of 2017 says “any Chinese company can be drafted into espionage, and a company could be forced to hand over the data” (Ghaffary). These concerns of the foreign leaders seem validated and even the government of India has already taken the step to ban the Chinese company (Meisenzahl). However, the ban increased conflict between the two countries, and there would be similar fallout if American’s were to take similar steps.
The US and China already have their issues and there are concerns that if the US were to ban TikTok, the country’s relationship would continue to decline. There is the fear of retaliation from China as well as other Countries following similar bans on all large tech companies, most of which are American (Ghaffary). The Chinese government already has bans on major US tech companies and has worked to create copies of companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber. Americans are concerned that if Countries start to become paranoid with other companies owning their data, then the American economy will be hit hard.
There are many data collection and storage concerns, as there are with most technology companies, however, TikTok has been the leader in one main issue with data, and that is the collection and storage of data collected from children. The US has many laws on what data can be collected from children starting at a certain age, and since TikTok’s main user base is children, they have been at the head of a lot of controversies. TikTok recently agreed to pay $5.7 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations of illegally collected personal data from children (Doffman, August 11). The FTC has also accused them of exposing locations of young children and not complying when they were instructed to delete certain information that had been collected from minors (Doffman, August 11).
Altogether there are many concerns with data collection and processing from foreign companies, the largest concern may come from the fear of censorship and manipulation of the public opinion within the site (Matsakis). As we have seen with the power Facebook holds over public opinion, TikTok could someday hold this much power, and it would be in the hands of the Chinese Government. Many leaders are concerned about this power, however, banning TikTok would not necessarily free the country from concerns of social media manipulation.
In conclusion, there are valid reasons to be concerned about TikTok, but in contrast, there are a vast number of reasons to not ban it. Many of the concerns brought up could be applied to most American technology companies and because of this, I do not believe the US government is ever going to do anything to remove TikTok’s place in America. Our government instead should be taking a step further to look at policies that apply to all data collected from any company, or how to decrease internet manipulation through education of our citizens, as it seems hypocritical to bash TikTok when we have Facebook to claim as ours.
Doffman, Z. (2020, August 11). TikTok users-here’s why you should be worried. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/08/11/tiktok-apple-iphone-google-android-data-security-update-warning-investigation-trump-ban/?sh=3b04029f3436
Doffman, Z. (2020, July 09). Yes, TikTok has a Serious China PROBLEM-HERE’S why you should be concerned. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/07/09/tiktok-serious-china-problem-ban-security-warning/?sh=2445db3e1f22
Ghaffary, S. (2020, August 11). Do you really need to worry about your security ON Tiktok? Here’s what we know. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from www.vox.com/recode/2020/8/11/21363092/why-is-tiktok-national-security-threat-wechat-trump-ban
Matsakis, L. (n.d.). Does TikTok really pose a risk to US national security? Retrieved February 22, 2021, from www.wired.com/story/tiktok-ban-us-national-security-risk/
Meisenzahl, M. (2020, July 13). Trump is considering banning Chinese social media app tiktok.
see the full list of countries, companies, and organizations that have already banned it. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from www.businessinsider.com/tiktok-banned-by-countries-organizations-companies-list-2020-7