The questioned use of data by TikTok that exasperates the US

From time to time the label of `the fashionable social network´ changes hands. First it was Facebook, later it was Instagram, then Snapchat reared its head but, without a doubt, TikTok has arrived at a time when the use of social networks marks all-time highs. In 2021, Android phone users alone spent more than 16 billion minutes on this short video social network. And this means? A huge amount of data per second. And this is where the umpteenth conflict between the two great powers of the world enters: the USA and China.

With each click, with each account creation, with each comment… TikTok is collecting more and more information: what we consume, from which device we connect, which categories are our favorites… information that the algorithm of the social network takes advantage of to continue offering us content that fits our user profile.

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has already become a global giant, a social phenomenon never seen before. And this is something that pisses off the United States a lot that threatens to stop it. In fact, as early as August 2020, Donald Trump signed an executive order preventing people from downloading the app, which was followed by an order for TikTok to sell its US business.

In fact, the law read like this: “TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information, such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party to access the personal and proprietary information of Americans.” And not only them, The US claimed that China can track the locations of government employees and promote corporate espionage. The orders were never enforced due to legal issues, and Trump was later defeated by Biden in the presidential election.

However, it did repeal the law but directed the US Department of Commerce to work with other agencies to produce recommendations to protect citizens’ data from `foreign adversaries’. The US Committee on Foreign Investment, which reviews trade deals with non-US companies, also is conducting a security review of TikTok.

Reports questioning TikTok and it defends itself

Reports that do not leave TikTok in a good place have multiplied in recent times. According to one from analytics firm, there are 112 million iPhone and Android users with a TikTok account in the United States. The government has called for stricter regulation and investigation.

TikTok data usage has also been subject of various investigations. As a Buzz Feed report last June based on leaked recordings of internal TikTok meetings claiming China-based ByteDance employees have accessed non-public data about US TikTo usersk. In one of the recordings, a member of TikTok’s trust and safety department claimed that “everything is seen in China,” according to BuzzFeed.

Separately, Forbes reported in October that a China-based ByteDance team planned to track two US citizens through TikTok’s collection of location data.

Also the American-Australian cybersecurity firm, Internet 2.0, published a report in which it assured that the data collection in the application is “too intrusive”. Y dialed a connection in the app to a server in mainland China, managed by Guizhou Baishan Cloud Technology Co Ltd. The report claims that the data that TikTok can access on the phone includes the device’s location, calendar, contacts, and other running apps.

And what does TikTok think of all this? For now, it has been limited to challenging both allegations that it collects more data than other social media companies, and that Chinese authorities access its users’ data. It also defends that it carries out the usual practices of the industry and that its data is not kept in China, but in the United States, where the data of American users is routed through the cloud infrastructure operated by the American firm. Oracle, and in Singapore. In addition to that it plans to start storing European user data in Ireland next year.

“Since we started transparency reporting in 2019, we have received zero data requests from the Chinese government,” a TikTok spokesperson says. And he insists they are an independent app, “which includes a CEO based in Singapore, a COO based in the United States, and a Global Director of Trust and Security based in Ireland.”

However, as a background: China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 which generates considerable doubt -especially in the US-. A law that states that all organizations and citizens must “support, assist and cooperate” with national intelligence efforts.

As TikTok’s influence grows and geopolitical tensions between the US and China persist, in all likelihood these data and privacy concerns will continue to rise.

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