The Clock is Ticking on TikTok

TikTok’s suspicious handling of user data may cause it to be banned in the U.S.

Andy Ratterree, Viking Voices Co-Editor

Since TikTok’s launch in 2016, the social media app has gained over one and a half billion active users, with more than one hundred million of those users being in the United States. Created by the Chinese company Bytedance, the app soon became very popular globally because of its simplicity in creating short videos and sharing them with the world.

Brady Swink (11) has used TikTok and thinks the ban shouldn’t happen.

“I think that TikTok should not be banned. Many creators not only use their platforms to entertain but also educate their viewers. Some also use the app as a source of income. If TikTok ends up being allowed to remain in the United States, safety measures and changes to the app should be implicated.” Swink said.

Over the past couple of years, TikTok has been questioned about its distribution of user data from the app. TikTok’s privacy policy lists all the things that TikTok is allowed to take from the user while you use the app. Such as location data, data from your clipboard, contact information and website tracking. It also tracks all the posts and messages you send within the app. This invasive policy has attracted the attention of major governments around the globe. These governments, including the U.S., voice national security concerns and are afraid that TikTok is giving its information to the Chinese government.

Recently, TikTok’s CEO has been brought to a U.S. court to be questioned by lawmakers about the app’s information sharing. Some issues that the government has with TikTok is that China could be using this app to spy on its users in the U.S. along with other countries around the globe. Another concern is that TikTok’s algorithm hasn’t been shared so it is not clear how the app chooses user content, and it may be biased or manipulative. These problems led the government to propose a ban on the app.

Gabriel Gilstrap (11) thinks that there is enough safety to continue using TikTok in the U.S.

“I don’t think TikTok should be banned in the U.S. because the CEO of TikTok has explained that while a major concern of Congress is if China could access American data through their app, TikTok’s data is only stored and overseen by American employees and facilities that can’t be infiltrated by the Chinese government,” Gilstrap said.

While the U.S. government may currently be trying to ban TikTok nationwide, there are already countries around the world that have banned the app. Canada, like the United States, already have TikTok banned on most government devices because of data security concerns. India, however, has banned TikTok completely along with other Chinese-owned apps due to privacy and security concerns amid ongoing tensions at the India-China border.

Although the ban on TikTok would make some citizens happy, the majority of the population would dislike the country-wide ban. The problem with a country-wide ban that the U.S. government is proposing is the fact that it is technologically infeasible. Even if the app stores stop making this app available, there is little to stop people with a bit of ingenuity to access the apps altogether.

One possible solution though is to safeguard U.S. user data and content from the Chinese government. TikTok’s CEO has already pledged to spend one and a half million dollars on the protection of this information by utilizing U.S.-based Oracle Corp. to store data.

Marlee Allen (11), who uses TikTok, thinks that location tracking is constant across all devices.

“I think there is no use to ban Tik Tok. For safety reasons of tracking, anyone with a phone can be tracked. I don’t know much of the other reasoning to ban Tik Tok, but I don’t see the problem with the app,” Allen said.