Really, the only thing that could truly halt TikTok’s meteoric rise right now is government regulation, with authorities in several regions continuing to analyze the app’s potential ties to the Chinese Government, and the security of user data in this respect.
The US Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) has been investigating TikTok for years, which has seen several senior officials related to the investigation publicly calling for the app to be banned over such concerns.
And today, the FBI joined those calls, with FBI Director Chris Wray saying that, in his assessment, the app does indeed pose a national security threat.
As reported by Reuters:
‘[According to Wray] the risks include "the possibility that the Chinese government could use [TikTok] to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations," Wray also said that Beijing could use the popular app to "control software on millions of devices," giving it the opportunity to "technically compromise" those devices.”
Such claims are nothing new – TikTok’s been facing these same accusations since its launch in the US, with the concerns increasing over time, as the app’s influence continues to expand.
TikTok has repeatedly sought to reassure users that their data is definitely not being accessed by the CCP, yet, at the same time, all of TikTok’s user agreements do note that China-based staff can access user data for certain functions.
Which is why it remains under a cloud – and while TikTok says that it’s in the midst of a major project to address all US concerns about its data security, various officials have continued to sound the alarm over the app’s potential exposure to the CCP.
Back in June, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr published an open letter which called on both Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores due to TikTok’s ‘pattern of surreptitious data practices’, while in September, Republican senator Josh Hawley urged CFIUS, once again, to force TikTok to sever all ties with parent company ByteDance.
Former US President Donald Trump had, at one stage, threatened a full ban of the app over its links to Chinese Government - though the reasoning for such action wasn’t entirely clear, with Trump, at different times, claiming that he was seeking to ban TikTok due to data concerns, but also, to punish China for the spread of COVID-19.
The confused reasoning eventually saw the TikTok ban fall by the wayside, with the Biden Administration moving to abandon Trump’s push once it was elected. Trump’s threat did, however, lead to a data storage deal between TikTok and Oracle, which is what TikTok is now leaning on (called ‘Project Texas’) as a key element in its efforts to address concerns.
And clearly, those concerns are still lingering, and as CFIUS continues to investigate the app – along with separate explorations in the UK and other regions – there is still a chance that TikTok could be banned in the western world.
Really, a lot of what comes next will hinge on the actions of the Chinese Government, which often takes an adversarial approach to foreign relations. If tensions with the CCP increase, in any region, TikTok may well be a victim, and it’s impossible to know what might be coming next in this respect.
In other words, a full ban of TikTok still seems unlikely, but that could change very fast.