WEST PALM BEACH, FL – U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed that TikTok sends user data to China, exerting pressure on the video-sharing social networking service. Pompeo brought attention to the fact that if personal information flows across a Chinese server, it will eventually end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party which he calls an “Evil Empire”. TikTok has denied U.S. allegations but a report by cyber experts at ProtonMail says otherwise. The report is more a warning as it states –
“Beware, the social media giant not only collects troves of personal data on you, but also cooperates with the CCP, extending China’s surveillance and censorship reach beyond its borders.”
TikTok is now at the mercy of the authenticity of speculations made by the U.S. and if these speculations are backed by fact, TikTok will be banned in the U.S. and it will lose access to millions of American users leaving a huge dent in the platform’s unprecedented growth. TikTok is currently installed on millions of devices with forty-six million U.S. installs.
Regarded as a preface to a much bigger plan by the Trump administration, TikTok saw a ban on its installation by federal employees on government-issued devices. This ban will be followed by the addition of TikTok to a Commerce Department entity list just as Huawei suffered.
Apart from speculation, there remainss a lack of proof – a missing smoking gun, according to Forbes.com while TikTok stands adamant that U.S. data is safe with the company issuing a statement that U.S. data never goes to China.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about TikTok out there, with decades of U.S. military and law enforcement experience, and a U.S. team that works diligently to develop a best-in-class security infrastructure.”
But the political point-scoring is not the only allegation that TikTok has to defend. The cyber-security analysts at ProtonMail are ex-CERN security engineers state TikTok’s “zealous data collection, its use of Chinese infrastructure, and its parent company’s close ties to the Chinese Communist Party make it a perfect tool for massive surveillance and data collection by the Chinese government”
The company also points to a whitepaper published by Penetrum, which states that “37.70% of the known IP addresses linked to TikTok are Chinese,” and therefore puts weight on the “excessive amount of data harvesting, vulnerabilities in TikTok’s code, as well as a few things that may make you feel pretty uncomfortable.”
In its defense, TikTok proclaims “millions of American families use TikTok for entertainment and creative expression, which we recognize is not what federal government devices are for. Our American CEO, our CISO… our entire and growing U.S. team—which has tripled since the start of the year—have no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protects our users’ privacy. That’s our focus.”
In conclusion, ProtonMail says – “The fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, one that has explicitly said it would deepen its cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party, makes this excessive data collection even more concerning. The Chinese government has a history of strong-arming and co-opting Chinese tech companies into sharing their data and then using this data to intimidate, threaten, censor, or engage in human rights abuses.”
Adding to the existing pressure on TikTok, the Swiss-based company warns that “from a security and privacy standpoint, TikTok is an extremely dangerous social media platform. Its potential for mass collection of data from hundreds of millions of adults, teenagers, and children poses a grave risk to privacy.” further advising the users, the company asks them to proceed “with great caution… and if this concerns you, you should strongly consider deleting TikTok and its associated data.”
The social media platform is considering breaking away from its Chinese parent to evade being banned in the US, a White House adviser has said.