TikTok is as dangerous as any social media app

TikTok is as dangerous as any social media app

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

TikTok’s biggest threat is that it wants to keep you

On Tuesday, Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) announced the administration’s latest attempt to ban TikTok in the United States. According to the senators, not to mention other politicians and government agencies, TikTok poses a threat to national security. It is designed to collect data on Americans and could be used by the Chinese government to spread pro-China propaganda.

However, according to a 2021 report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and a January report by the Georgia Institute of Technology, TikTok poses just as much of a threat to American privacy as competing American social networks.

“It’s very easy to get access to a lot of data about a lot of people that you can easily buy from data brokers, that you can get by creating apps that use Facebook data, for example,” explained University of Maryland professor Jen Golbeck, who is conducting the study. social media and cyber security.

“There’s a lot of ways to access that data, and I think a lot of the confusion around TikTok is specifically because it’s China.”

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That’s not to say that TikTok isn’t a potential threat to some users, but the massive backlash against the app doesn’t seem to match what publicly available information says about the popular platform.

TikTok is like any other social media app

TikTok, like US social media apps including Meta ( META ) Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and Snap ( SNAP ), collects user data to sell ads. In fact, according to a 2021 study by Citizen Lab, TikTok collects the same type of data as Facebook.

This information includes things like device information, technical specifications such as screen resolution, network addresses, and hardware model names — all collected by other social media applications. Not to mention your interests, likes, shares, etc.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and other U.S. senators are unveiling legislation that would allow the Biden administration to

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and other U.S. senators are unveiling legislation that would allow the Biden administration to “ban or ban” foreign technology products such as the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on Capitol Hill in Washington. at a press conference. , March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Bonnie Cash

The difference is that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based outside of China, and that relationship gives American politicians pause.

“Nobody would pay that much attention if they were British. That’s because it’s Chinese,” explained Herb Lin, a senior researcher at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

TikTok says it currently stores users’ data on Americans on Oracle’s servers in Virginia, not in China, where the Chinese government can access it. During Citizen Lab’s testing, TikTok did not contact any servers within China.

TikTok has also been accused of censoring topics that make the Chinese government look bad. In 2019, The Guardian reported that the social network was restricting the availability of posts about Tibetan independence and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. In 2020, The Information produced its own report on TikTok’s censorship policy.

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Citizen Lab’s report found no conclusive evidence that the app censors certain forms of content that portray the Chinese government in an unfavorable light. However, the report found that some posts appeared to have disappeared, although Citizen Lab could not say whether users or TikTok had taken them down.

What does all this mean? TikTok is probably no more of a threat to Americans than any other social media platform. It collects your data, sells you ads, and tries to stick you to your screen as best it can.

According to a report by the Georgia Institute of Technology, TikTok is more focused on making money than on shipping the user data of Americans to China.

TikTok can still be problematic

While TikTok doesn’t pose a threat to all US consumers, it can still be problematic for some. For example, Chinese dissidents living abroad could be targeted by the Chinese government if they publicly post information on the app.

That said, the Chinese Communist Party could do more or less the same by scraping similar information posted on Facebook or Twitter.

“If you’re not a defense contractor or someone who’s likely to be of particular interest to the Chinese government … then I’d say you’re at a much higher risk with Facebook and Instagram, with all those companies doing the Best if people they’re using to figure out how to make them even more addicted to their product,” explained Justin Cappos, a professor at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.

It is uncertain whether TikTok will ever be banned in the United States. Even if Congress passes a bill banning the app and Biden signs it, the company will likely file a lawsuit to stop the app. You can continue scrolling for now. Remember, the app, like other social platforms, is always listening.

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By Daniel Hawley, technical editor at Yahoo Finance. Follow him @DanielHowley

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