Concerns around TikTok’s potential ties to the Chinese Government are expanding calls for bans of the app, with the UK Government now also under pressure to outlaw the app on Government issued devices.
As reported by The Guardian:
“[UK Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak has been urged to ban government officials from using TikTok in line with moves by the EU and US, amid growing cybersecurity fears over China. Officials in Europe and the US have been told to limit the use of the Chinese-owned social video app over concerns that data can be accessed by Beijing.”
As The Guardian notes, the calls come after EU officials earlier this week issued a directive for Government employees to remove the app from their devices, while TikTok is now also banned on Government phones in 26 US states.
The US Government is still in the process of assessing the safety risks of the app, which could still result in a full ban in the US - and with pressure mounting, there does seem to be growing momentum on that front.
TikTok’s case is being hurt by rumors of China’s possible intervention in the Ukraine conflict, with some suggesting that the CCP is close to offering assistance to Russian forces. There’s no official information on this as yet, but as the US continues to support Ukraine, and China considers its options, the tensions between the two are increasing, which could lead to further conflict.
That then amplifies the concerns around TikTok, which is technically beholden to the Chinese Government to share information on its users, as per China’s cybersecurity rules. And while much of the information that could be gleaned from TikTok would be relatively harmless, officials from ByteDance, the owner of the app, have already shown how TikTok tracking data can be used to spy on US journalists.
With this in mind, it makes sense that security officials are sounding the alarm for government employees. It may ultimately prove to be an overreaction, but if there’s any risk, it’s better to be safe, and avoid exposure to such concerns.
The question then is when does that concern expand from government officials to the public, and the perceived risk of potential data sharing with the CCP? That’s what US assessors are working to establish, and if the White House does decide to ban the app, it seems increasingly likely that many other western nations will follow suit.
The alternative, then, would likely be a sell-off of TikTok to a local entity, in order to keep it running, or we lose the app entirely.
It still feels unlikely that it will come to that, given the potential revenue on the line, but it does remain a possibility, and it’s getting stronger with every dent in US/China relations.