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Should you be alarmed that TikTok is sharing user data with China?

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While TikTok seems to be the social media platform of choice with Generation Z, some are claiming that there are ulterior motives behind the app. Creators like Addison Rae have garnered millions of views & followers on TikTok, yet possibly at the expense of users’ precious data. Who’s behind this alleged exploitation? Some in power are pointing the finger at China.

A commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission has requested for both Apple & Google to remove TikTok from their app stores. This comes days after a BuzzFeed News report found that the platform’s employees in China tapped into data of American users time & again. This runs contrary to the company’s claims of innocence.

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FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr wrote a letter to Apple & Google CEOs Tim Cook & Sundar Pichai respectively. In it, Carr said, “It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data.” So much for all of those views & followers.

Is TikTok a national security threat?

In his letter to Apple & Google, Carr also stated that “TikTok is not just another video app. That’s the sheep’s clothing.” In early June 2022, BuzzFeed News released a report following an audio leak of more than eighty confidential TikTok meetings. In them, they found fourteen statements from nine separate employees regarding engineers in China accessing American users’ data.

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These instances of data harvesting specifically occurred between September 2021 & January 2022. This leak also lined up with past claims that Chinese employees of TikTok parent company ByteDance had access to U.S. citizens’ data. In one of these meetings in September last year, a member of TikTok’s Trust & Safety department said, “Everything is seen in China.”

Earlier this week, Marsha Blackburn was one of nine GOP senators to write a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. In it, the members of congress asked around a dozen questions regarding user privacy. What’s more, the Republican senators voiced their worry about the rhetoric of TikTok’s VP & head of public policy for North America, Michael Beckerman.

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TikTok’s VP caught in a lie

Michael Beckerman was questioned at an October 2021 congressional hearing spearheaded by Marsha Blackburn. Beckerman testified to the panel that TikTok didn’t give sensitive information to the Chinese government. Beckerman claimed that the company’s American user data was stored domestically but backed up in Singapore. 

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The letter from the Republican senators said Beckerman, “did not provide truthful or forthright answers.” BuzzFeed News reached out to TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter for comment earlier this week. She responded by saying that the company planned to respond to the senators’ letter and that the response would also answer the FCC’s concerns.

Despite all of the concerns regarding data harvesting by Beijing, TikTok’s popularity amongst young Americans continues to grow. The app was the most downloaded in the U.S. & worldwide in the first quarter of this year. TikTok continues to rack up users, who spend hours on the app in an attempt to get views & viral fame.

This isn’t the first time that TikTok has come under scrutiny by the U.S. federal government. In 2020, former President Donald Trump attempted to ban the app due to worries that the Chinese Communist Party was using it for surveillance of American citizens. It seems like this scenario was ripped from 1984 by George Orwell.

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Thirsty for TikTok views? Think again. Both the FCC & Congress are grilling the company for allegedly sharing American data with China. Do you use TikTok? Let us know in the comments!

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