Firstly, why do the US government want to ban TikTok? Isn’t it just a fun app that millions use to share video clips.
Well, there is a lot more to TikTok than you can see by just using the app. The problem that many governments around the world have, including the US government is around the issue of security. They are worried that the Chinese owned TikTok and their parent company ByteDance could be putting sensitive user data over to the Chinese government who can discreetly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering purposes, although TikTok has denied these allegations.
The main worry for the US government is that the data TikTok has access to is used to spy on people, especially those in powerful positions who have access to valuable and highly sensitive information. There is a history of the Chinese government hacking U.S. government agencies through social platforms and then using this data to trick people into revealing further information.
The second issue is that TikTok refuses to share its algorithm, so it isn’t possible to see how the app chooses a user’s content.
If the government decides that TikTok should be banned, how will they stop their 150 million existing users? Well, for a ban to be successful they are going to have to work with technology firms like Apple and Google and get them to block the distribution of the app through their app stores. The problem then is that there are other ways to download and install the TikTok app if people are determined they are going to use it despite the ban.
The only other option could be to force Apple and Google to make changes to their phones' operating systems so that the TikTok app won’t work on them. Although, I believe that this would lead to many legal challenges. At the end of the day an outright ban would be very hard to enforce.
Another problem with banning the app is that the 150+ million people who have already downloaded the app onto their phones would find that the app would still work on their phones and the government cannot force people to remove the app from their phones. The only hope the government has then is for the internet providers within the USA to agree to block the app. This is possible as it has already happened in India where users cannot log in and use the app, therefore, making the app unusable.
At the moment we don’t know what ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok is collecting data-wise and if it can invade the privacy of each and every user. It appears that the most significant risks are to the most powerful people in society, be it in politics or business. Their data and information could be used to gain access to other data or potentially compromise the agencies and companies they are working for or associated with.
Well, that is a tricky one. As explained above it is going to be a long process to ban the app completely and even then, people who are determined enough will find a way to use it, such as use a VPN to change their location. Then what does the USA do about future popular Chinese based apps? Do they ban them all?
As Madeline Carr, a cybersecurity and politics professor at University College London said, "If the ban is about the concerns around data sharing, then I would say that government devices shouldn't either have WhatsApp or Facebook, as these apps also collect and share our data and they have been fined in the past by their data collection agencies.”
When you look at what Madeline Carr has said, it does show you that by banning one app it could then open up arguments to why the US government aren’t cracking down on other USA based technology firms and their apps.
One thing is for sure, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this news story and if they do choose an outright ban how successful that will be.