Tiktok, the world’s most famous application with over 1 billion active social media users, has come under fire yet again in the United States. This time, it involves concerns over its privacy policies and lack of security which have grown in recent times. Despite the application’s immense popularity, there is a buzz in the United States about a complete TikTok ban. Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota, issued an executive order on November 30th introducing a complete ban on TikTok from for all government-owned devices in South Dakota citing threats to user data. We note that a Chinese company owns Byte Dance, the fast-rising star App which the United States is looking to police.
The executive order issued in South Dakota stated, ‘’The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people and to gather data on the devices that access the platform.’’ The FBI also came forward to criticize TikTok, warning that the video-sharing app’s control is in the hands of the Chinese Government ‘’which doesn’t share our values and which manipulates content in order to influence operations.’’ According to FBI Director Christopher Wray when speaking at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R.Ford School of Public Policy, “The data collected by the Chinese could be used for traditional espionage operations.” He further accused China of having a mission that is at odds with United States values, which is concerning. U.S government agencies and the U.S Pentagon (which is the headquarters of its Department of Defense) has put bans in place. TikTok bans have also been placed by U.S government agencies and the U.S Pentagon (the headquarters of its Department of Defense)
This is not the first time that the Chinese-based tech company is facing the wrath of U.S. governmental agencies. Former U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. president Joe Biden have raised concerns over TikTok’s lack of privacy. Republican Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district expressed his vision for changing the country’s legislative agenda. A Republican-controlled Congress will convene in January 2023 and it might bring up the issue of a prospective ban on TikTok in the United States. Republicans are looking forward to seeing the federal government invoke a stronger stance against TikTok. Remember, Former U.S President Donald Trump had imposed a ban on TikTok in 2020 citing security threat, only to take a U-turn eight days later with another executive order giving ByteDance 90 days split off its U.S. TikTok business or sell it to an American firm.
TikTok has been on the radar of U.S. governmental agencies since 2019. This is especially so since it has gained popularity among the younger generation. TikTok’s Chinese origin raised suspicion and forced the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. or CFIUS to review a merger between the app’s parent company ByteDance and Musical.ly. The Biden administration also vowed to evaluate TikTok’s risks in a ‘decisive and effective fashion’ They launched a security review in June 2021 that has yet to publish its results. TikTok on the other hand has denied its privacy breaches and has emphasized it has kept the data of U.S citizens secure. In this interconnected global economy the situation does raise crucial questions about regulating data privacy, security, and digital trade.