Ask a Collegiate | TikTok: Why the USA is Planning to Banish the App?

“We are banning TikTok”, said Donald Trump, president of the USA in 31 of July. It's not clear yet if Trump has the power to do it, neither it's clear how this prohibition will come to live and its legal impacts. However, this impasse is creating international alert, since TikTok is been accused of stealing data from its users and sending it to Chinese government. 

The United States isn't the first government to make this statement, weeks before, Australia also claimed to be thinking about abolishing the app and India already did it. This situation shows how the ''new cold war'' between China and the US can stop the only social network not created in American soil to spread around the world. 

What are the accusations surrounding TikTok?

The Chinese app collects several data from its users, like which videos they are watching and reacting, information about their localization, kind of mobile, operational system and even the rhythm each person has when typing a message. This shouldn't alert anybody, because several social medias do the same thing, and it's all listed in the usage terms that the user must read and accept when downloading the app.

However, since the beginning of 2020, we have witnessed some flaws in the TikTok security system. One digital security company discovered that these errors facilitated hackers access to user data and even taking control of some accounts. The social network corrected the fault as soon as it was released.

But it wasn't the only controversial aspect. More recently, it was discovered by the IOS 14, the new operational apple system, that TikTok and other 50 apps were regularly reading the clipboards - the "copy and paste" content - of users. Among the other applications are Reddit, LinkedIn, New York Times and BBC News. 

desk with computer and a coffee by the side After this discovery, TikTok declared that this functionality does exist, and its goal is to avoid spam posts. Nevertheless, they decided to withdraw the resource because the implications surrounding data privacy were too high. Anyway, the suspicions continue, even though there is no proof that the app is stealing data from the users and sending it to China. 

How is the app defending itself? 

TikTok does not operate in China, even if the owner company is located in Beijing. This particular app is made for the external market, inside Chine it has a different version, called Douyin. According to the company, these two apps are independents, with distinct markets, users, content, teams and politics. 

Also, TikTok has been trying to gain some distance from the Chinese government. Recently, the app announced that will stop its operations in Hong Kong, as a response to the new law created by the country, which empowers the government influence in the region. This decision was faced as an attempt from the app to show no connection with the communist regime. 

Still in the same line, the application named, in may of this year, the American Kevin Mayer as the new chief executive, as an intention to show the company's independence from the country of origin.

How is the diplomatic relation between USA and China?

January, this year, China and the USA signed the first phase of a trade agreement after two years of a market battle. Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the countries face once again an impasse, not only with different approaches, they also exchange accusations about the location of the beginning of the virus. 

We notice some of these shocks while Trump is suspending the financial support to World Health Organization (WHO) and China is donating US$ 30 millions to the international organization. The Chinese have been supporting the fight against the pandemic all around the world, sending doctors and equipment to other countries affected by the crisis.

Recently, the Asian country created a new security law to  Hong Know - which was known for its autonomy from the government - that is a region of American commercial interest. In response, Trump suspended the special treatment that the US gave to semi-autonomous territory. Washington says the law destroys the autonomy of the former British colony. Beijing accuses the United States of meddling in its internal affairs.

Donald Trump official portrait In addition to that, China ordered the closure of the United States consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu in 24 of July. The announcement was made just hours before Washington’s deadline for the Chinese government to end its diplomatic mission in Hudson, Texas. The decision is "a legitimate and necessary response to US irrational measures," said the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement.

To close the Chinese embassy, the American government stated that two hackers tried to steal information about vaccine research, at the command of the Chinese government's spy services. In a official declaration, the US said the actions were required in order to protect "Americans' intellectual property and private information".

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The article above was edited by Laura Ferrazzano

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