The UK government followed the same path as the United States, Canada, New Zealand and the European Union and banned the use of the TikTok application on the cell phones of its officials for security reasons, amid growing concerns that China would use it. making the data that can be obtained through this social network, widely used in the world, especially among children, adolescents and young people.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was under pressure from his international partners, especially the United States, to join the ban and thus restrict use on official mobile phones.
This week, in fact, the Secretary of State for Security, Tom Tugendhat, explained that he made a special request to the National Cybersecurity Center to review the application and make sure that it does not represent a threat.
The White House, the Canadian government, the European Commission and the European Parliament are some of the institutions that, as has been said, have already vetoed the use of the application on the corporate phones of their employees.
On the opposite sidewalk, TikTok denies that it facilitates the Chinese government’s access to its users’ data and speaks of “prejudice” because it is a company from that country. In February of this year, however, the White House had given US federal agencies 30 days to remove the application from all government electronic devices. Given this, China accused the United States of “abusing its state power” and its “concept of national security.”
Mao Ning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assured that the United States “abuses” by “unjustifiably suppressing companies from other countries.” The spokeswoman expressed China’s opposition to what she described as an “abuse of state power” by Washington, and called on the US government to “respect the principles of the market economy and fair competition.”
The government of US President Joe Biden thus complies with a bill passed in the US Congress at the end of last year that requires federal agencies to suppress TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, due to fears that the data of users may fall into the hands of the government of that country.
DO YOU SPY ON YOUR USERS?
TikTok reigns in terms of entertainment and number of users, with more than 1,000 million in record time, but its environment is addictive and questioned about the effects on health, beyond the questions that some governments are now throwing at it about its true and secret mission on cell phones around the world.
The social network is already the most popular worldwide and in our country it is no exception, mainly among young users and children who use it to have fun, hang out, and even to display -as has happened- bad behavior of their teachers in schools. However, more and more cybersecurity experts believe that it is a dangerous app, and they recommend not only prohibiting its download on government phones or army devices, but also on other cell phones. As said, the suspicion is that this tool is being used for military and technological espionage, and that it even spies on the habits of users even if they do not use it.
At the moment, at least in the US, the government ban does not apply to companies in the United States that are not associated with the federal government, nor to the millions of citizens who use the popular application, through which users share videos without no kind of restriction.
However, House Republicans are expected to push through a bill that would give President Joe Biden the power to ban TikTok across the country, a move disputed by human rights organizations.
“Congress must not censor entire platforms and strip Americans of their right to free speech and expression,” Jenna Leventoff, policy adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a statement. “We have the right to use TikTok and other platforms to exchange our thoughts, ideas and opinions with other people in the country and in the world,” she said.
TikTok, reportedly owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, has become a political target due to concerns that the widely popular app around the world could be used specifically for espionage or propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party. (PCC). In fact, the US ban adopted in December has been emulated in recent months by other Western countries.
The Danish Parliament recently reported that it has asked its members and all its staff to uninstall TikTok from the mobile devices it supplies for security reasons. According to the institution in a statement, the measure was taken due to “espionage risk” following recommendations from the Danish center for cybersecurity.
A similar move was taken by the Canadian government, which announced it will ban the Chinese app on mobile devices it provides to its staff, citing “an unacceptable level of risk” to privacy and security. “On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to phone content,” said Canadian Treasury Minister Mona Fortier, adding that the move was taken as a “precautionary” and, for now, it is ruled out that government information “has been compromised.”
The decision was described as “curious” by a spokeswoman for the Chinese firm, who pointed out that it was made “without citing any specific security problems”, and regretted that the authorities did not contact the company before the official announcement.
The move in that country was announced a week after Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, a nonpartisan ombudsman and Parliament official, reported that it had launched an investigation into TikTok with the aim of establishing its compliance with Canadian law. The objective of him in particular is to verify that “TikTok has obtained a valid consent for the collection, use and communication of personal information.”
Also two of the main institutions of the European Union (EU) adopted similar initiatives last month, in a decision that the firm considered “wrong”.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, announced the ban two weeks ago to protect itself “against cybersecurity threats and actions.” Next, a source from the European Council, a body that represents the EU countries, reported that they were preparing similar measures and will ask their staff to remove the application from their phones and mobile devices. Meanwhile, the European Parliament indicated that its cybersecurity services will analyze the decision as announced by the Commission before formulating its recommendations.
A TikTok spokesperson called the decision “wrong” and reaffirmed that it protected the data of its European users. “We are disappointed with this decision, which we believe is wrong and rests on fundamental misunderstandings,” he said. And he added: “We have contacted the commission to set the record straight and explain how we protect the data of the 125 million people across the EU who visit TikTok every month.”
In November, the viral video app admitted that some staff in China could access the data of European users. However, in his reaction to the commission’s decision, the spokesperson assured that TikTok is committed to “minimizing data flows (of its users) outside of Europe.”
“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to phone content,” said Canadian Treasury Minister Mona Fortier, who specified that in that country they prohibited its use among officials out of “precaution.”