Tik Tok was among the 59 Chinese mobile applications banned by the Indian Government this past week due to security concerns, The US government might be following the same trail in a recent report which states the U.S. government under the Donald Trump‘s administration might consider this action as well in short – Tik Tok could get a ban by US government.
While the U.S. government had earlier had a rift with the Chinese company for some times now over data handling as well as accusing the Chinese government of spying the U.S. citizens which had led to the ban of other big tech companies like Huawei in the country, Tik Tok might just be the next this year 2020.
Tik Tok which was formerly Musical.ly was acquired by ByteDance a Chinese tech company and the company had spiraled into a global phenomenon making it one of the largest social networking platform on the internet today with billions of users worldwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic is part of what boosted the service the more as more people are locked away from the rest of the world hence, entertainment. Tik Tok which is known for short video clips has gained more than 2 billion downloads according to a research firm Sensor Tower with more than 623 million downloads gained by the end of the first half of the year.
India which is it’s largest market began an anti-Chinese sentiment when the country’s soldiers had a deadly clash with the Chinese soldiers leading to a number of casualties from the Indian army. The other market of Tik Tok includes Brazil which is ranked as it’s second largest market then followed by the US. China would have been it’s biggest market but it’s distributed under a different branding – Douyin.
With India gone, the platform’s largest stronghold remains the U.S and Brazil but the U.S. government had been criticizing the company over some times now as regarding it’s ties with the Chinese government which obviously meant the meddling with tech by politics.
With that said, even Australia is thinking about joining the ban of the service from the country meanwhile the US Army and Naval have banned it’s service members from using the application on government-issued phones.
Even Amazon, the huge online retailer, has raised concerns. On Friday, the Seattle-based company barred employees from using TikTok on devices that connect to the company’s email, citing “security risks.”
With that said, we’re left with the question Why s Tik Tok deemed a national threat to security leading it to be blacklisted by numerous companies and even big world governments considering it’s ban.
First is why the U.S. government want Tik Tok banned?
There is this sentiment that the Chinese government could be spying on the U.S. affairs by creating backdoors on these types of platforms. During an interview with Fox News on monday,the country’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it known that users who downloads the application are putting “private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The U.S. President Donald Trump had also made a quite different reason for the likelihood of getting the application banned in the country. His stance is to punish China for it’s response to the Coronavirus. “It’s a big business,” Trump said. “Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful.”
Meanwhile there haven’t been any additional comment from the White House about the stance of things. The US Department of State also declined to offer any additional information which could help navigate through the real motives behind the consideration as well as when the ban could be implemented by the government.
TikTok’s access to US users’ data may well be worth investigating. There will always be concerns when apps from foreign companies collect large amounts of user data, said tech policy expert Betsy Cooper, director of the Aspen Policy Hub.
But, she added, “It’s unclear how much effort the administration will put into actually investigating the seriousness of the specific security concerns with the app versus using this as a threat for broader geopolitical leverage.”
How is Tik Tok approaching this?
The company as at some point considered moving it’s data away from China just in order to satisfy the request by the US government some weeks back. The company had faced numerous challenges as to national security and privacy scrutiny. The company in fact did announced last year that it was moving it’s US user data to the US while back up data would be stored in Singapore and also confirms that none of it’s data is subject to Chinese law.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement addressing Pompeo’s comments. “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
But is that enough? It seems there is more to it as the company continues to face backlashes over security and privacy data handling.
So what happens if Tik Tok gets banned?
If Tik Tok gets banned today, just like India, The US Government will likely issue an ultimatum as well as legally requiring digital stores such as Google Play Store and Apple App Store to take the app down from their platforms.
“The tech community will be very hesitant to go along with this app ban,” said Wayne Lam, an independent technology analyst. “It sets a precedent for the government to ban other apps or even for other global apps to be inaccessible to the US market.”
Meanwhile there are other issues which includes users being able to download the application and sideload it to their Android devices for example as well as using VPN services to go about it if the service’s network was ever banned through network carriers and internet service providers.
“I don’t know at that point how you police that,” Milanesi from Creative Strategy.
Also, the service could be placed on the entity list…the same list where Huaweii currently exists in the US which will potentially restrict the company’s access to US technology. With that, the same efate Huawei suffered could become the portion of Tik Tok in the US in short whereby US-Based companies won’t work with the Chinese brand until the ban is lifgted.
Lam said that the US government could block traffic to TikTok, but that is “unlikely to succeed given our legal systems.”
If to take into account the ban by other countries, there haven’t yet been a more effective ways of implementing the ban. Although companies such as Google and Apple have both complied by removing the app from their platforms but the question remains are those who have already installed the app to uninstall it or those who can easily sideload the app from third-party stores or even use VPN services to access it.
And speaking of being able to still access the service, users who still have the app on their devices are still able to use it while some are said to have seen alerts telling them that the service is working with the Indian government to comply with it’s order.
Google declined to comment. Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.
But can the US Government ban an app?
The US government can’t outright ban a citizen from using an application meanwhile the government can lobby the Congress to enact legislation which can target that app/software/service in this case Tik Tok according to Kurt Opsahl, general counsel at Electronic Frontier Foundation – an advocacy group.
Currently, Opsahl said, “There is no law that would authorize the federal government to ban ordinary American from using an app.”
With all that said, there isn’t anything for sure just yet but there could be a potential ban from government and elected officials from using the service at least even if the service isn’t banned from the hands of those who already have it on their phones as well as the potentially new users who are planning to join the service.