TikTok, a popular social networking app, and world’s most valued start-up, used to create and share 15 seconds videos with editing options ranging from an archive of musical variety to fascinating video effects, is facing the potential risk of being ban in the US and Australia.
The popular short video app owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, is estimated to be used by about 60 million Americans and 1.6 million Australians. Both the Australian and the US government fear that TikTok poses as a national security threat as it is alleged to be a medium that conveys users information to the Chinese government.
This allegation appears to hold water as China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 mandates all tech companies based in China or under Chinese ownership to not withhold any information requested from them by the Chinese government.
TikTok however claims that it stores data outside of China and therefore is not “subject to Chinese law”.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, hinted during an interview with Fox news on Monday, that the US is ‘seriously’ considering a ban on Chinese social media app.
Herald Sun‘s report on Monday mentioned an unnamed “federal MP” who was canvassing for the ban of TikTok in Australia. Senator McAllister emphasized the need for transparency and content moderation for social media platforms while also expressing scepticism about the adherence of TikTok to both issues. She also suggested that TikTok, as well as other social media platforms, should be willing to be questioned before the Senate committee with respect to their policies and the best way to secure a healthy social media environment.
India, became the first country to ban the use of TikTok when on 29th June 2020, the government issued an interim order blocking 59 Chinese phone app including TikTok. The Indian government, claims that these apps are illegally collecting user’s data. The ban is seen as part of the India’s retaliation towards the recent clash between the Indian and Chinese military. This ban comes at no small cost to the start-up as statistics revealed that In 2019 India was Tiktok’s top market for new downloads followed by China and the United States respectively. According to statistics from App Annie, prior to the ban, India had 81 million active Monthly Average Users (MAUs)
Following the ban, TikTok’s CEO Kevin Mayer said:
“I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users. If we so receive such a request in the future, we would not comply”
The head of TikTok in India, Nikhil Gandhi, also released another statement rejecting the Indian government’s claim. He said:
“TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government. Further if we are requested to in the future, we would not do so. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity.”
The ban by India will cost TikTok about US$6 billion (Source). According to Media kix, before the ban, Tiktok’s 800 million MAUs surpassed LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest.
ABC news puts the estimated number of Tiktok’s users at 1 billion with over 175 million downloads in the U.S alone.
Launched in 2016 , TikTok became the most downloaded app in USA in 2018. These statistics put USA as one of Tiktok’s top market suggesting the devastating effect a ban on TikTok from the US would have on the Start-up.
TikTok informed the public on Tuesday on its intention to exit Hong Kong in light of its recent ban by the Indian government and surrounding events and as a direct result of the recent national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing. This legislation passed into law on 30th July, 2020, mandates technology companies in Hong Kong to hand over user data to the Chinese government.
Other popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter oppose this legislation. Facebook and WhatsApp, stated that they are “ pausing “ review of requests made by the Hong Kong government for user data “pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts.”
Over the years, organisations around the world have come under scrutiny over possible data breach. Facebook faced similar scrutiny in 2018 when it was alleged to have exposed the personal information of nearly 50 million users resulting in class action lawsuit against the company. This security breach is considered the largest breach in Facebook’s 16-year history.
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