After months of congressional and regulatory debate about the possible problems of TikTok, the U.S. Government is going to ban it.
The prohibition will however only go into effect for government devices being used by employees of federal agencies and departments.
The Biden administration has given all federal employees 30 days to remove their TikTok apps from mobile devices issued to them by the Federal Government.
Plans for this ban have been under debate for months. However, a concrete ruling dates back to December of 2022 when a bipartisan (supported by both democrats and republicans) bill passed unanimously through the U.S. Senate.
One of the concerned parties is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, whose director, Chris Wray argued for the measure against the app.
According to Wray in an argument shared by other government figures, the Chinese government could be using or eventually use the TikTok platform for “influence operations” and espionage on U.S. Government devices.
The root of these government concerns includes three key elements:
For one thing, the TikTok social media platform is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. This corporation, like many others in China, is widely considered to be beholden to orders and data requests from the Chinese government.
Secondly, like virtually all major social media apps (including U.S. apps such as Instagram and Facebook), TikTok does indeed seek all kinds of data tracking and monitoring permissions on any devices on which it’s installed.
This is pretty much standard practice today among all major global tech giants and even many smaller app makers.
Third, employees of TikTok have been known to mine data from targeted U.S.-based users in the past, despite corporate claims that data from U.S. users is sealed away from company offices inside China.
It’s also worth noting that the Chinese government applies its own bans to U.S. tech companies and far more broadly. These include currently-active bans against Instagram, Facebook and certain Google services.
For those of you who don’t use TikTok or know much about its social media structure, the site has become immensely popular in recent years and lets users post short videos of between 3 seconds and 10 minutes to followers.
TikTok’s popularity has grown so much that in 2021 it beat out Facebook, YouTube and Instagram as the most sought-after app on mobile devices with a whopping 656 million downloads.
Obviously, American competitors have become worried and started imitating some of its services. Instagram is most famous for this with its “Reels” rollout, which has pissed off many photographers while failing to stem TikTok’s U.S. popularity.
Again, the upcoming TikTok ban only affects Federal Government-issued devices despite talk among some politicians of a blanket nationwide ban on the app for all U.S.-based users.
The U.S. isn’t alone in banning TikTok either. In 2020, India effected its own ban on the app after political disputes with its Chinese neighbor. More recently, Canada’s Prime Minister has also been planning a TikTok ban for employees of his own federal government.
American users who have TikTok on their phones should know that ByteDance almost certainly tracks and stores as much data as it can from their mobile devices, at least for its own corporate reasons.
However, they should also remember that virtually every other social media app and many other smaller app services from any national source (including U.S. companies) do exactly the same thing.
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