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US considers banning TikTok app over security threat

The TikTok app which has taken the world by storm may be getting banned in the U.S. as their government fears there is a potential security threat.
Quinn Patrick Montreal, QC

The TikTok app which has taken the world by storm may be getting banned in the United States as their government is worried about the potential security risks is may bring, according to ABC News.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US government is  "certainly looking" into banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.

TikTok is a mobile video app that shares 15-second videos that feature quick edits, music and filters. It's owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company and is used by 65-80 million Americans monthly. Over 175 million Americans have downloaded the app and more than 1 billion globally.

"We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked." said a TikTok spokesperson.

However, U.S. lawmakers have been calling for an investigation into Bytedance and its relationship to the Chinese government to see whether of not the technology poses a counterintelligence threat to the United States since last fall.

In response to the calls for an investigation, a TikTok spokesperson said that the company is "led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users."

Pompeo on the other hand worries that the app is collecting its users' data to be shared with the Chinese government. While appearing on a segment of Fox News, Pompeo was asked if he would recommend anyone download the app to which he replied, "Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."

Chinese internet security law allows the government to request access to all data used by Chinese companies, which is why Pompeo feels almost all Chinese companies to be a security threat to the United States. At this time the State Department has not given many details on what is next for TikTok however they did stress the importance of what China's internet security law looks like for Americans who use Chinese apps.

"Every Chinese technology company is required by Chinese law to provide information they obtain, or information stored on their networks, to Chinese authorities if requested to do so. All Americans should be concerned that their images, biometrics, locational and other data stored on Chinese apps must be turned over to China's state security apparatus upon request." said an official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The use of TikTok by personnel of several U.S. agencies has already been banned, such the U.S. military and the Transportation Security Administration.

Despite this, TikTok has become increasingly popular since the COVID-19 pandemic began with the average user spending 52 minutes a day on the app, according to digital advertising firm, Wallaroo Media.

India banned the app as of last week, in response to rising tensions with China regarding a border dispute in the high region of the Himalaya mountains, over similar security concerns. Officials in Australia are also looking into the potential security threat and have discussed the option of a ban.

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